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Accusations Without Evidence and Moldy Bunk in Virginia

An Allen campaign ad serves up undocumented charges while a DSCC ad recycles a bogus claim about body armor.

October 13, 2006

Modified: October 13, 2006

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Summary

An ad sponsored by Republican Sen. George Allen's campaign features an undocumented accusation by Naval Academy graduate Janice Buxbaum against Democratic challenger Jim Webb.  In the ad, Buxbaum claims Webb misquoted her in a draft of his 1979 Washingtonian magazine article, "Women Can't Fight," and brushed aside her objections. In fact, the article Webb published makes no mention of Buxbaum, and Webb denies ever showing her a pre-publication draft.

Allen's campaign said it did not have a copy of the supposed draft and could produce no evidence that Buxbaum appeared in any draft.

Meanwhile, a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ad recycles a false claim that Allen "voted against additional body armor for those serving in Iraq," which we've debunked before.

Analysis

The dueling ads began airing in Virginia on Oct. 9 and 10, respectively.

Friends of George Allen Ad: "Spider"

Janice Buxbaum: When I was a midshipman at the Naval Academy, I was one of the unfortunate few that got ordered to go and interview with James Webb.
(On Screen Text: U.S. Naval Academy, '80; Democrat)
Buxbaum: He assured me that he would not print anything until I had seen it and approved it.
(On Screen Text: James Webb wrote an article entitled, "Women Can't Fight"; Webb misrepresented his intentions.)
Buxbaum: It wasn't until he showed me the draft product.
I looked at him and said I never said any of those things, they're all lies. And he said too bad.
He's a bright man; he's just not an honest man.
(Text on screen: learn more at webbagainstwomen.com)
Buxbaum: I don't want him in my party, and I don't want him in my Senate.
George Allen: I'm George Allen, and I approved this message.
(On Screen Text: Paid For By Friends Of George Allen)

Show Me the Draft

In the Allen campaign ad, Buxbaum claims that as a Naval Academy midshipman she was "ordered" to allow then-professor Jim Webb to interview her for his 1979 Washingtonian  article  "Women Can't Fight."  Buxbaum claims that later, Webb showed her a draft of the article, and says she told Webb that the statements attributed to her in the draft were "all lies."  According to Buxbaum, Webb merely replied, "too bad."

Actually, the article makes no mention of Buxbaum. So the ad is false, at least to the extent that it implies Webb ignored protests from Buxbaum and deliberately misquoted her.

It is possible that what Buxbaum says in the ad is literally true – and merely fails to mention that the disputed quotes were never published. But Webb denies ever agreeing to show her a draft of the article. Webb's spokesperson, Kristian Denny Todd, told FactCheck.org that Webb did interview Buxbaum, but says he never showed her a draft.  The Webb campaign also maintains that none of the students were ordered to interview with Webb.

We can't resolve which of these conflicting stories is true, but so far the Allen campaign has failed to produce a copy of the draft containing the alleged misquotes, or any other documentation that would verify Buxbaum's story. We independently sought out Webb's Washingtonian editor for the article, Jack Limpert, who said he didn't have a draft and couldn't recall whether Buxbaum was mentioned or not.

Buxbaum was quoted by The Associated Press Oct. 7 as saying she refused to sign a release waiver for the quotes that she claims were falsely attributed to her in Webb's draft piece:

AP: In a telephone interview with reporters, Buxbaum…said Webb told her she would have an opportunity to read a draft before anything was published.  After seeing the draft, she said she objected to material he had attributed to her and would not sign a release waiver. 

If true, that could explain the absence of any such quotes in Webb's published article. However, the ad falsely implies that Webb published Buxbaum's words over her objection, saying "too bad."

The ad also identifies Buxbaum as a Democrat.  In Virginia, where Buxbaum is a resident, voters are not required to register by party affiliation.  Federal Election Commission records show that Buxbaum donated to both Democrats and Republicans in 2003 and 2004 - with a majority of the money going to Democrats during those two years. 

We said it before, and we'll say it again…

The DSCC repeats some popular Democratic standbys from this ad season. Allen's "taken thousands from Big Oil" and given the industry "billions in tax breaks," we're told. Both are true – his campaign has received  $158,850 in this election cycle from oil and gas companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and he supported a Senate bill giving that industry tax breaks worth many billions over 10 years. Neither activity is illegal or unethical.

We're also told that Allen "voted for pay raises" for himself and "against raising the minimum wage." Again, basically true, if one equates a vote against blocking a pay raise with a vote for a pay raise, which is fair enough. And Allen has twice voted for a minimum wage increase, but only as part of Republican-sponsored legislation that contained an increase in the estate tax exemption level, in one case, or tax relief for small businesses, in the other.

The ad also claims that Allen "voted against additional body armor for those serving in Iraq," which is technically true but extremely misleading.

DSCC Ad: "Slurs"

Announcer: George Allen: scandals, slurs and insults.
(On Screen Text: "The 'Macaca' Gaffe" -- Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/17/06; "Political Scientist Says Allen Used Racial Slur" -- USA Today, 9/26/06; "Allen Didn't Report Stock Options" -- AP, 10/8/06)
Announcer: Now after Allen's dark side is exposed he wants the race to be... 
George Allen: ...decided on issues.
Announcer: Well, here's his record: Allen voted against additional body armor for those serving in Iraq.
(On Screen Text: Senate Vote #376, 10/2/03)
Announcer: Allen's taken thousands from Big Oil and voted to give them billions in tax breaks.
(On Screen Text: $322,000 from Big Oil and Gas, Center for Responsive Politics, 10/6/06; $2.6 billion in tax breaks to Big Oil & Gas, HR 6; Vote #213)
Announcer: And Allen's repeatedly voted for pay raises for himself, but against raising the minimum wage.
(On Screen Text: Vote #360, 12/7/01; #242, 11/13/02; Vote #406, 10/23/03; Vote #179, 6/21/06; Vote #257, 10/19/05; Vote #26, 3/7/05)
Announcer: George Allen is wrong on the issues, too. 
Allen: ... Macaca, here...
Announcer: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

Body armor and more body armor

In fact, Allen voted  in favor of an $87 billion supplemental appropriations bill in October 2003 that contained $300 million for purchase of advanced body armor.

What the DSCC ad refers to is a Democratic amendment to that $87-billion measure, which would have added $322 million more to pay for troops' "safety equipment" while reducing money for reconstruction efforts by the same amount.

Allen did vote against that additional $322 million, and so it is literally true that he voted against "additional" body armor funds. But as we have reported before, more money would not have produced any more body armor for troops in Iraq or anywhere else. The  military already had increased its orders for body armor ten-fold using existing funds, and suppliers were unable to produce armor fast enough to meet the sudden spike demand. 

An earlier ad against Allen by VoteVets.org also accused him of voting against body armor. We called  that one false: there was no mention of body armor in the amendment cited by the VoteVets ad, or in the debate, and no additional body armor could have been purchased even if it had passed. This DSCC ad makes a slightly different claim, accusing Allen of voting against "additional" body armor, and cites a different vote.

During debate  on the amendment cited in this ad, Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, the sponsor, argued that the additional money was needed to pay for such things as body armor and hydration systems beyond what was provided for in the $87-billion measure already. But Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens of Alaska argued that if the Army needed more than the $300 million provided for body armor in the bill they could reprogram funds from the total of $26 billion in Army funding being provided.

Dodd's amendment was killed Oct. 2, 2003 by a vote of 49 -37, with only Democrats voting to keep it alive. Less than four months later the Pentagon reported that all troops in Iraq had the advanced body armor.

Both parties have been raising similar body-armor claims, without much if anything in the way of a factual basis. We noted as recently as Sept. 27 a Republican ad making this charge against a Democratic House member, for example.

by Emi Kolawole

Sources

Lewis, Bob.  "Navy alumna says Webb misquoted her, but article doesn't name her," Associated Press.  7 Oct 2006.

Whitley, Tyler.  "New Allen television ad attacks Webb's integrity; Spokeswoman for Democrat calls spot tied to '79 article a lie," The Richmond Times Dispatch.  7 Oct 2006.

Evans, Ben and Joseph J. Schatz, "Details of Energy Policy Law," Congressional Quarterly Weekly.  13 Sept 2005. 

 

 

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