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December 12, 2011


This article provides several illustrations of bad "fact-checking."

It also cites a study from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs suggesting that PolitiFact fact-checkers are probably biased in favor of Democrats:

A Smart Politics content analysis of more than 500 PolitiFact stories from January 2010 through January 2011 finds that current and former Republican officeholders have been assigned substantially harsher grades by the news organization than their Democratic counterparts. In total, 74 of the 98 statements by political figures judged “false” or “pants on fire” over the last 13 months were given to Republicans, or 76 percent, compared to just 22 statements for Democrats (22 percent).

So, are the media a bunch of French Socialists? Maybe they are. Here's one data point.

At a conference of insurance executives some years back, a participant told me that he had gone to meet the editors of, I think, the Newark Star Ledger. A top person, whose exact title I don't recall, specifically told the visitor that he was a socialist and that his views informed the newspapers editorial stance.

Given the vagueness of my memory and the second-hand nature of the story, it may not be fully accurate. Take it for what it's worth.

I'm sure that statistic you cite from the Humphrey School is correct, David. But the fact of the matter remains, most of the Republican candidates make claims that cannot be substantiated; most the Republicans PolitiFact checks on lately are the contenders for President. There happens to be more Republicans running for President than Democrats lately, for obvious reasons.

You can't blame PolitiFact for the fact (no pun intended, I swear) that Republican candidates make very bizarre claims (e.g. Bachmann's HPV-mental retardation claim). It's not their fault many Republicans have lost their minds.

So, studies differ on whether Congressional portfolios outperform the market. I cannot tell which studies, if any, to believe.

However, IMHO these studies don't try to answer the most important question, namely:

1. Do Congressmen and Senators sometimes commit insider trading without fear of prosecution?

2. Are their votes sometimes affected by their stock holdings?

Note that the answer to both could be "Yes" even if Congressional portfolios on average don't outperform the market.

BTW Sarah Palin has a straightforward written article on this subject. She makes a good point about enforcement:

But under current law, there is no way the SEC will ever go after a powerful congressman or senator. The SEC never has, even though insider trading prohibitions have existed since the 1930s.

Another instance of bad fact-checking by PolitiFact. As usual, the victim is a Republican.

Politifact took a statement that was entirely true -- that Reps had elected more Hispanics to statewide office in Texas -- but rated it Mostly True. Their rating was based, not on the statement, but on their argument against the statement's implication.

Furthermore, IMHO PolitiFact's argument wasn't even correct. PolitiFact claimed that Republicans have a better chance of electing a Hispanic, because, "No Democrat, regardless of ethnicity, has won statewide office for 15 years."

However, the comparison was for all time, not just for 15 years. Going back beyond 15 years, Dems often dominated Texas state politics. In fact, it's my guess that historically Democrats dominated Texas politics a lot more more often than Republicans did.

I've always wondered if candidates have ever made money on intrade.com If I was Herman Cain I would have bet against myself right before dropping out. Make a quick couple grand maybe.

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