9News "Truth Test" declared anti-Musgrave ad "false" -- even though it wasn't


A KUSA-9News "Truth Test" called a campaign ad asserting that U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave voted to cut clean water programs "false," citing a vote in the 109th Congress, but failed to mention a vote in the 108th Congress in which Musgrave did vote against a motion to reject Clean Water Act exemptions for the oil and gas industry.

In an October 13 KUSA 9News "Truth Test" of a campaign ad attacking U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's (R-Fort Morgan) environmental record in Congress, reporter Adam Schrager incorrectly labeled a claim that Musgrave "voted to cut programs that protect our drinking water" as "false." As evidence, Schrager cited Musgrave's voting record, as documented by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), for the 109th Congress (2005-2006) only. However, neither the claim made in the ad nor the citation it provides is limited to the 109th Congress, and Schrager failed to note that, according to the LCV, Musgrave voted during the 108th Congress (2003-2004) in favor of "a special exemption from Clean Water Act requirements" for oil and gas companies.

Musgrave is running for re-election in the Fourth Congressional District against Democrat Angie Paccione and Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness.

The Musgrave ad, sponsored by "Coloradans for Life," an independent "527" group, asks viewers, "What do we really know about politicians Marilyn Musgrave and Eric Eidsness? We know Marilyn voted to cut programs that protect our drinking water." Schrager labeled this contention "false" based solely on Musgrave's voting record from the 109th Congress. According to Schrager's written analysis of the advertisement:

The [Coloradans for Life] commercial cites a Voter Information Website for the League of Conservation Voters. This is an organization dedicated to being "an independent political voice for the environment." To do so, it looks at environmental bills, including those dealing with water, that go through Congress. It then "grades" Congress people on how "environmentally friendly" their votes are.

In viewing Marilyn Musgrave's most recent record, for the 109th Congress, only one water-related issue was presented. It was one that Musgrave did not vote on, which means she never "voted to cut programs that protect" drinking water. The LCV graded her with a "question mark."

Schrager was apparently referring to House Resolution 5386 from the 109th Congress that included an amendment, which, according to Schrager's broadcast analysis, would have "loosen[ed] the restrictions on the Environmental Protection Agency to protect so-called isolated bodies of water." Basing his analysis on this one amendment, Schrager reported that, "Since Musgrave did not vote on this amendment, or on the passage of the bill, there is no proof that Mugrave voted to cut programs that protect drinking water in the sources for this ad."

However, the website cited in the ad as a source for Coloradans for Life's statement about Musgrave does not refer specifically to Musgrave's votes in the 109th Congress. Rather, the address shown during the ad directs viewers to a page where they can access the environmental records for any member of Congress during any of the past four Congresses.

Moreover, the LCV's review of Musgrave's voting record from the 108th Congress shows that she did, in fact, vote against a motion to reject Clean Water Act exemptions for the oil and gas industry.

According to the League of Conservation Voters, House Resolution 6 from the 108th Congress included language that would have given oil and gas companies a special exemption from requirements of the Clean Water Act that "limit the stormwater pollution (rain and snow runoff) caused by the construction of pipelines, drilling sites, roads and other infrastructure used in drilling -- requirements all other industries must follow." According to the LCV's summary of the legislation:

That exemption was duly included in the House energy bill (H.R. 6). Opponents of the exemptions were denied opportunities in committee and on the House floor to remove it, but when the energy bill went to conference committee, Representative Bob Filner (D-CA) offered a motion instructing House conferees to reject Clean Water Act exemptions for the oil and gas industry. On November 7, 2003, the House rejected the Filner motion by a 188-210 vote (House roll call vote 618). YES is the pro-environment vote. The exemptions remained in the final conference report, which was passed by the House but not yet passed by the Senate.

As noted by the LCV, Musgrave voted "no" on the Filner motion to deny Clean Water Act exemptions for oil and gas companies -- a fact that Schrager failed to note in his analysis of the ad.

Referring to the exemption for the oil and gas industry that Musgrave voted against removing from the bill, Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), the ranking Democratic member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, stated in a 2003 press release, "If enacted, this provision would make oil and gas exploration the only construction activity not subject to Clean Water Act requirements. ... As a result, oil and gas operations would be under no obligation to control storm water runoff that would impair our nation's lakes, rivers, and streams. It is a complete, unprecedented end-run around one of our nation's most successful environmental laws."

A November 17 article [subscription required] in Congressional Quarterly also noted Democratic objections to the provision in H.R. 6 that would have "[e]xempt[ed] all construction activities at oil and gas drilling sites from coverage under the runoff requirements of the Clean Water Act."

The Fort Collins Coloradoan also published a written version of Schrager's "Truth Test" on its website. Both the Coloradoan and KUSA are owned by Gannett Co. Inc.

From the October 13 broadcast of 9News at 6 p.m.:

SCHRAGER: This is false. The commercial cites one clean water issue for Congresswoman Musgrave in the last congressional session. It was an amendment to a larger appropriations bill that asked to loosen the restrictions on the Environmental Protection Agency to protect so-called isolated bodies of water. The problem with the commercial is that Musgrave did not vote on the amendment. She was heading back to Colorado for a meeting in Loveland the next day with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

A tip from Colorado Media Matters reader S.S. contributed to this item. Thanks, and keep them coming!

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