FactCheck.org - Annenberg Political Fact Check
FactCheck HomeAbout UsArchivePrivacy PolicyCopyright PolicyContact Us

A False Ad in Georgia

A Democratic candidate for governor accuses a primary opponent of voting against a popular measure ... before she was even elected to the legislature.

June 23, 2006

Modified: June 27, 2006

eMail eMail to a friend Print Printer Friendly Version

Summary

 

In the Democratic primary for governor, current Georgia Lt. Governor Mark Taylor released a campaign ad saying that his opponent Sec. of State Cathy Cox "admitted she voted against the lottery that created Hope Scholarships." That's simply not true.

In fact, Cox didn't begin serving in the state legislature until two years after the measure was passed and thus couldn't  have voted for it.  

In a response ad, Cox said Taylor is a "top executive" of a company that benefitted from his actions as Lieutenant Governor.  In fact, Taylor wasn't an officer of the company that benefited from his actions. And he is now an officer of an entirely different company.

Analysis

On Friday, June 17th, Taylor's campaign began running a new 30-second ad highlighting Taylor's support of Hope Scholarships, which use revenue from the state lottery to fund college scholarships for state residents.

 Mark Taylor Ad: "Always"

Announcer:  Who’s always been there on education? Mark Taylor is endorsed by Georgia ’s teachers because he’s been a real innovator. Everything from pre-kindergarten for every child to sponsoring the law creating HOPE scholarships.
(Miller County Liberal clip shown) 
Announcer : Cathy Cox opposed the law creating HOPE scholarships. On April 20th 1993, Cathy Cox admitted she voted against the Georgia lottery that created HOPE scholarships. Go to Cox Record.com to see for yourself. On education, only Mark Taylor has always been there.
       

Oops.  

The ad says that Taylor's opponent Cox "opposed the law creating Hope Scholarships," and "admitted she voted against the lottery that created Hope Scholarships." Both statements are untrue.

The lottery bill was passed in January of 1991, before Cox was even elected to the legislature.

As support for their claim the Taylor campaign offers a 13-year-old news story  from the Miller County Liberal, which the Taylor campaign appears to have misinterpreted. The newspaper reported  on a speech made by Cox to a club in her district on April 20, 1993:

Miller County Liberal: Rep. Cox stated that although she did not vote for the lottery, she would be watching how the $139 million anticipated to come in the first year would be spent .  Most of the proceeds are set to go to education and scholarships she said.

Cox is quoted as saying she "did not vote for" the lottery, which of course she could not have done because she was not in the legislature at the time. The Taylor campaign incorrectly twists this into a claim that she "admitted that she voted against" the lottery, a falsehood. In fact,the article as a whole reports on Cox's impression of her first session in the legislature during the Spring of 1993. Since Taylor boasts of "sponsoring the law," he would know that the lottery bill was passed in January of 1991, before Cox was even elected. She began serving two years later, Jan. 11, 1993.

The Taylor campaign insists that Cox voted against the law as a private citizen, after it passed the legislature and was on the ballot as an initiative. On a Taylor campaign-related website, Coxrecord.com , a timeline says "November, 1992 - Cox votes against Hope." However, Cox said she voted for the lottery referendum, and has "always" supported the Hope Scholarships. If the Taylor campaign has evidence to prove otherwise they have yet to produce it.

The reporter of the 1993 story, Terry Toole, released a statement saying Taylor was misinterpreting his piece:

Toole: Cathy didn't say she voted against the lottery in Georgia.  Cathy was speaking to the Colquitt Lions Club as a newly elected state representative, updating us on what was happening in the state.  She let us know that she had nothing to do with voting the legislation in since she was not in the legislature when the law was voted on.

Update, June 27: Mark Taylor, in a letter to FactCheck.org, says he stands "one hundred per cent" behind his ad. He argues that by saying she "did not vote for" the lottery Cox was in effect admitting she voted against it. We disagree. As reporter Toole makes clear above, Cox was talking about her actions in the legislature, not about a ballot measure.

Also, the Taylor campaign posted a letter from Benjamin E. Cawthon, a former city councilman in Blakely, Ga., who said he recalled hearing Cox speak against the lottery during an appearance in 1992. "When Cathy Cox says she was for the lottery, she is not telling the truth," Cawthon wrote. That doesn't support what Taylor said in his ad, however. Even if Cawthon's interpretation is accurate (he doesn't quote her directly) it doesn't prove she later voted against the measure, much less that she admitted voting against it afterward, as the Taylor ad asserts.

Extra Credit?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Taylor's ad may also overstate his involvement with the lottery bill's passage. As the Journal Constitution  reported on June 18th:

Journal-Constitution While Taylor pushed the bill that created the lottery as an assistant floor leader for Gov. Zell Miller in the Senate, the proposed lottery amendment that passed the General Assembly was sponsored by the House, not Taylor and the Senate.

Update June 27: Even so, former Gov. Miller gives Taylor full credit for pushing the lottery measure and the scholarships it funded. "There would be no HOPE scholarship if it had not been for his hard work," Miller said at a 2002 campaign appearance with Taylor, according to The Associated Press.

 Cathy Cox Ad: "Web Deceit"

Announcer: A fabrication. Grasping at straws. That's what the media calls Mark Taylor's deceitful attack on Cathy Cox. Cathy has always supported Hope Scholarships; always will. And Big Guy Mark Taylor? He's a top executive at one of Georgia's largest trucking companies. And as Lieutenant Governor, Mark Taylor used his power to get free prison labor for a company project, costing hard working, law abiding Georgians their jobs.  Mark Taylor, he lies, and just looks out for the other big guys.  Georgia, we deserve better.     

Cox's Exaggerated Response

Cox released a response ad statewide with a $370,000 buy on June 21, saying she has "always" supported the Hope Scholarships. She then says of her opponent, "He's a top executive at a large company and as Lieutenant Governor, Mark Taylor used his power to get free prison labor for a company project."  That's not true.

Taylor did "act as an intermediary" in a deal to supply a recycling plant with free prison labor, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1999. But his connection to the plant is overstated. Taylor's family at one point, owned a trucking company, Trans Waste Inc., that had a contract with the recycler. But according to our search of the Georgia corporate  database, Taylor is not listed as an officer of the company.  Furthermore, the Journal-Constitution reported  that the family sold Trans Waste a year before the deal.

The Cox campaign maintains that the Taylor family remained connected to the company.  The Journal-Constitution report found that "Taylor's father, Fred, was listed as secretary of the company," and our own search of the state database  found a James Taylor listed as Trans Waste's secretary. The Taylor campaign says that information is inaccurate, however.  Taylor is now vice-president of his father's Fred Taylor Co., which is involved in trucking and real estate, according to the campaign.       

Other Campaign Missteps

The  primary is set for July 18th, but the campaign already has a full history of tense moments.  Earlier this year, Morton Brilliant stepped down as campaign manager for the Cox campaign after editing Taylor's entry on the open source Internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia, to include information about his son's involvement in a fatal drunk driving incident. Also, Taylor has accused Cox of wrongly using state money to raise her profile by appearing in state ads warning of securities fraud.

-by Justin Bank

Note: This article was revised slightly on June 27 to add additional details about Mark Taylor's connection to his father's trucking company.

Sources

Cook, Rhonda, "Prisoners 'hired," so ex-welfare clients fired; Free convict labor means trash sorters are recylced out of a job," Atlanta Constitution-Journal.  19 June 1999.

Salzer, James, "Reality Check: A Look at Campaign Claims; Cox: Taylor Used Prison Labor," Atlanta Journal Constitution.  22 June 2006.

Salzer, James, "Taylor's Campaign sues Cox," Atlanta Journal Constitution. 20 June 2006.

Toole, Terry, "Cox enjoys her first legislative session," Miller County Liberal. 22 April 1993.

Taylor, Mark, "Ex-City Councilman says its Clear: Cox opposed Lottery during Campaign," Mark's Blog. 21 June 2006.

"Reality Check: A Look at Campaign Claims; Taylor Claims Role in Creating Hope Scholarship," Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 18 June 2006. 

Press Release, "'Big Guy' Looking out for Other Big Guys,"  Cathy Cox Campaign for Governor. 21 June 2006. 

Dick Pettys, "Democrats hail HOPE anniversary in pre-election swing," The Associate Press, 30 Sep 2002