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Politics and Government

Fact check: A look at what’s true and what’s false in Colorado’s 2018 governor’s race

Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton trade misleading claims, and so do outside groups helping the candidates

  • Credibility:

The candidates’ misleading claims and negative attacks are making it difficult to tell fact from fiction in the 2018 campaign.

It’s particularly tough in Colorado’s governor’s race between Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton, where competing lines dominate the conversation and big outside money is fueling the falsehoods.

To help voters, Colorado media outlets are putting the claims through a reality check.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, left, speaks with CBS4’s Shaun Boyd, center, and Walker Stapleton before the television news station’s debate, in partnership with The Colorado Sun, on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Here’s a rundown of all the political fact checks from the governor’s race and whether they meet the truth test.

(CBS4 Denver is a reporting partner with The Colorado Sun this election. Check back for updates throughout the campaign.)

Jared Polis’ single-payer proposal would cost big bucks

The claim: “Jared Polis wants government to takeover health care. He’d have to double income taxes and even that wouldn’t be enough to pay for it.”

From: Republican Walker Stapleton

Fact check verdict from CBS4: Half true

The context: Democrat Jared Polis supports a Medicare-for-all, single-payer plan at the national level, which would amount to a government-run plan. It could cost $32.6 trillion, according to an analysis of a Senate bill (not the one Polis is sponsoring.) The total is so great, it would take major tax hikes, as the ad suggests. But Polis doesn’t support doubling income taxes. More hereSource: CBS4

Related: A 9News fact check calls this TV ad misleading. It notes that the federal bill Polis supports would pay for the measure with increases in personal income tax on the top 5 percent of earners, an excise tax on payroll and self-employment income, a tax on unearned income and a tax on stock and bond transactions. More here. And a Fox31 fact check reached the same conclusion. More here.

Walker Stapleton can’t back up his energy claims

The claim: Jared Polis’ energy plan “is really a giant energy tax that would raise prices on almost everything else.”

From: Republican Walker Stapleton

Fact check verdict from CBS4: Misleading

The context: Republican Walker Stapleton says rival Jared Polis’ plan to convert the state to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 would amount to an energy tax — but it’s not an actual tax, which Colorado voters would have to approve. Polis says it would save money, at least in the long run, but it will also cost big dollars up front. Polis won’t say how much it would cost, nor how he would pay for it. More hereSource: CBS4

Related: A 9News fact check agrees this is misleading. More here. And Fox31 suggested it is false. More here.

Jared Polis responds to misleading TV ad — with his own misleading TV ad

The claim: “Walker Stapleton … and false TV ads now attacking Jared Polis.”

From: Democrat Jared Polis

Fact check verdict from CBS4: Misleading

The context: Democrat Jared Polis aired a TV ad that blasted rival Walker Stapleton for airing a false TV ad about him. Except Stapleton didn’t. At the point it appeared, Stapleton hadn’t even aired his own TV ad. The ad Polis is talking about came from the Republican Governors Association, which can’t coordinate with Stapleton’s campaign. More hereSource: CBS4

Jared Polis can’t make this claim because he won’t release his tax returns

The claim: “The true facts. The Denver Post examined Polis’ tax returns and there was never a time he didn’t pay taxes.”

From: Democrat Jared Polis

Fact check verdict from CBS4: Misleading

The context: Democrat Jared Polis released his tax returns in 2008 as he ran for Congress — and The Denver Post wrote about it. But he has refused to release taxes since then, so we don’t know if he’s paid his taxes in the last 10 years. More hereSource: CBS4

Jared Polis’ tax record is a top target for his opponents

The claim: “Jared Polis didn’t pay income taxes but he wants to raise yours.”

From: Republican Governors Association, in support of Walker Stapleton

Fact check verdict from CBS4: Partially true

The context: A decade ago, Democrat Jared Polis released tax returns and it showed he paid income taxes in some years, and didn’t pay income taxes in others because his expenses exceeded his income. And yes, he has supported tax hikes in Colorado and at the federal level. He has proposed repealing President Donald Trump’s tax bill, which cut taxes for some people. More here. Source: CBS4

Related: A 9News fact check found similar problems with the advertisement. More here.

Jared Polis is liberal, but he’s not entirely “Radi-California”

The claim: “Jared Polis wants the same thing” as California for health care

From: Republican Governors Association, in support of Walker Stapleton

Fact check verdict from CBS4: Misleading

The context: Democrat Jared Polis supports single-payer health care. But he is not proposing the same plan considered in California, which put forward a $400 billion system that replaced Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance with a single government system. He wants an alternative government plan available, though he doesn’t have a plan to pay for it. More hereSource: CBS4

Walker Stapleton actually missed more PERA board meetings than ad claims

The claim: “Even though overseeing our pension system is one of his top responsibilities, Stapleton missed nearly half the pension meetings, missing 33 in all.”

From: Good Jobs Colorado, in support of Democrat Jared Polis

Fact check verdict from 9News: True

The context: A more updated look at the numbers shows that Republican Walker Stapleton, the state treasurer, missed 35 of 77 meetings since taking office in January 2011. However, in all but five cases, his office was represented because he sent a deputy to attend. More here. Source: 9News

Related: Fox31 also found the claim about missed meetings true.  More here.

Stapleton’s calendar suggests this ad is false

The claim: “Stapleton was busy at things like political events, golf outings and lunching with campaign donors.”

From: Good Jobs Colorado, in support of Democrat Jared Polis

Fact check verdict from 9News: False

The context: The same advertisement that noted Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s absence from PERA meetings pointed to potential reasons. The group behind the ad, however, could not prove its case, and Stapleton’s calendars for a handful of the meetings suggest the claims don’t  add up. More hereSource: 9News

Related: Fox31’s fact check found this claim misleading. More here.

Democrats overreach on Walker Stapleton and education

The claim: “Coloradoans value education and opportunity, except Walker Stapleton.”

From: Democrat Jared Polis

Fact check verdict from Fox31: False

The context: Republican Walker Stapleton opposes measures to increase taxes for education, but that doesn’t mean he opposes education. In fact, his campaign has an education plan that supports putting more money into classrooms — like his Democratic rival Jared Polis. More hereSource: Fox31

Jared Polis clips his rival’s words in misleading TV ad

The claim: “Stapleton says Colorado spends too much on schools and that Colorado ought to be using money on prisons.”

From: Democrat Jared Polis

Fact check verdict from Fox31: Misleading

The context: At a 2010 event, recorded on video, Republican Walker Stapleton said this: “We are already spending too much unchecked money as it is on education and we don’t have enough money to go around and this is money we could use on correction services and money we could use on infrastructure.” Democrats mischaracterized his words. And more to the point, Polis shares the concern about the unchecked education money. More hereSource: Fox31

Polis missed the Club 20 debate, but that doesn’t mean what Republicans say it does

The claim: Polis “is skipping the Grand Junction debate the first candidate in decades to blow off the Western Slope.”

From: Republican Governors Association, in support of Walker Stapleton

Fact check verdict from Fox31: Half True

The context: Democrat Jared Polis skipped the Club 20 debate in Grand Junction. The debate’s organizers said he is the first gubernatorial candidate in more than 30 years to miss it. Polis’ campaign cited a scheduling conflict. But he did not “blow off” the Western Slope. He had campaigned in that part of the state and attended another debate in Grand Junction. More hereSource: Fox31

The job impact of Polis’ energy plan is debatable

The claim: “Polis is so Boulder he is pushing a plan to destroy energy jobs.”

From: Republican Governors Association, in support of Walker Stapleton

Fact check verdict from Fox31: Misleading

The context: Democrat Jared Polis wants Colorado to move to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, which is expected to reduce jobs in the traditional energy sector. But it would create jobs in the renewable energy industry. More hereSource: Fox31

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