The Morning Report
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Statement: “DeMaio’s funded by Tea Party extremists, who oppose pay fairness for women. DeMaio’s pledged to support their extreme agenda in Congress,” declares a television ad from Rep. Scott Peters in his congressional campaign against Carl DeMaio.
Analysis: The ad begins with a young woman shuffling her kids off to school and then sitting down at a desk in her office. She opens her paycheck as the narrator notes that women make only 77 percent of what men do. The woman frowns and types Carl DeMaio’s name into a search engine.
The ad says that if DeMaio’s elected to Congress, he would make things worse for women.
“DeMaio’s funded by Tea Party extremists, who oppose pay fairness for women,” the ad says. “DeMaio’s pledged to support their extreme agenda in Congress.”
Then DeMaio’s opponent, Rep. Scott Peters, appears, noting that he supports equal pay for women.
The ad’s message is clear: Peters backs equal pay laws for women. DeMaio opposes them.
Except that’s not true. And Peters’ attempts to tie DeMaio to equal pay opponents are misleading.
A close parsing of the ad shows that it never explicitly says DeMaio doesn’t support equal pay laws. It says DeMaio’s campaign donors don’t support equal pay laws. (We’ll put aside the question of whether DeMaio’s funders are “Tea Party extremists.”)
Specifically, we’re talking here about a bill called the Paycheck Fairness Act. Here’s how Vox describes it:
It requires employers to justify pay discrepancies and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who disclose their own wages or ask about other workers’. It would also allow plaintiffs to recover compensatory and punitive damages, which they cannot currently do under the Equal Pay Act.
The bill has come up regularly in recent years in Congress, and Senate Republicans shot down another attempt at passage earlier this month. Many Republicans oppose it because they believe it’s too broad and could invite lawsuits. So DeMaio is breaking with his party by backing it. In fact, DeMaio and Peters seem to agree on many major women’s issues.
Peters’ campaign responded to questions about the ad with a list of DeMaio donors who opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act and other equal pay laws. Pressed about whether the ad meant that DeMaio didn’t support the laws or just his donors, Peters campaign manager MaryAnne Pintar said: “The ad states that he is funded by members of the Tea Party caucus who have consistently opposed pay fairness. It further states that he has pledged to support the Tea Party movement and principles, which he has stated he does, in his own words. Voters can draw their own conclusions.”
Surely, Peters doesn’t want to be held to the standard that he agrees with 100 percent of what his donors believe.
So to sum up, the ad is clearly meant to portray DeMaio as opposed to equal pay laws. Trying to do that by tying DeMaio to his donors is way too cute of a maneuver. The ad is misleading.
Now, there is one other issue worth discussing. Just when did DeMaio say he supported the Paycheck Fairness Act?
The first time we’ve seen it reported was, well, when we reported it on Sept. 16. Peters released his ad before then. DeMaio’s camp insists that he had publicly stated his position in favor of the Paycheck Fairness Act prior to that point, even though press releases and news coverage of DeMaio’s positions on women’s issues don’t mention it.
Regardless, the timing of DeMaio’s stance on the act is irrelevant here. Peters’ campaign has said the ad is about DeMaio’s supporters – not him – even though the implication is precisely the opposite: that DeMaio would object to equal pay legislation because his backers ostensibly object to it. The most charitable interpretation for Peters is that DeMaio didn’t state a position on the act until Sept. 16. Were that the case, Peters could have argued accurately that DeMaio hadn’t taken a position on paycheck fairness or that he was being cagey on revealing his stance. Instead, the ad implies that DeMaio opposed or would oppose the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Here’s the full Peters ad:
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