Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fact check encore

Those that are as tired of this thread of articles as I am can take comfort in the knowledge that this is the last of the series. Before the end of the Texas primary it was reasonably clear that the most likely runoff scenario in Texas' 4th district U.S. congressional race would be a match-up between incumbent Ralph Hall and challenger John Ratcliffe. In the course of the campaign I had a number of opportunities to talk to Ratcliffe, and to hear his repertoire of stump speeches. I found almost nothing to disagree with in what he had to say, and my overall impression was positive. On the other hand, one of my other co-competitors was very vocally negative about Ratcliffe and had a list of anti-Ratcliffe charges in his campaign literature. Having a vote to decide on, my investigation into Ratcliffe started with those charges.

I've been a voter a lot more than I've been a candidate. As a voter, the hyperbole of campaign rhetoric has always rubbed me the wrong way, and I deeply resent it when politicians craft finely parsed tales to manipulate the voters. It is fundamentally disrespectful to the voters (even a candidate's supporters) to ask for a position of public service while simultaneously trying to manipulate them for personal interests. Unfortunately, it's also a norm that we have come to expect from politicians. My initial analysis of the accusations revealed that there was no depth to any of them.

For the most part the charges are nonsense assembled from perceived associations and speculation. These conspiracy theories are intended to raise doubts and scare voters away from Ratcliffe. It's a political gambit that we see all the time. Make a charge, make it loudly, repeat it often. Mudslinging 101. I addressed one of the more conspiratorial charges in a previous article to show that it wasn't the result of serious investigation. Today we'll look at a specific charge that is intended to take one of Ratcliffe's positives and turn it into a negative - the illegal immigration enforcement action against Pilgrim's Pride.

The basic charge here was that Ratcliffe is a bully who simply used a position of authority to pick on a popular East Texas employer that had broken no laws, costing hundreds of 4th district jobs in the bargain. The reasons Ratcliffe would do this are left to the imagination of the reader. The plaintiff went so far as to claim that the resulting fines contributed to a subsequent bankruptcy filing by Pilgrim. Immigration enforcement is a hot topic in conservative circles at the moment, so it's an odd thing for a conservative to go after a candidate for his record of enforcing immigration laws. But let's deal with the specific charges:
  • Charge
    • The $4.5 million fine contributed to Pilgrim's financial trouble, becoming a component of their slide into bankruptcy.
  • Reality
    • Pilgrim's bankruptcy ended before the $4.5 million fine was imposed. There was no way it could have contributed to the bankruptcy.
    • The fine was paid in four annual $1.125 million installments.
    • The magnitude of the fine should be viewed in the context that Pilgrim is a global corporation employing about 40,000 people and generating about $8 billion in annual revenue. $1.125 million is 0.014% of annual revenue. If you made $50,000/year it would be the equivalent of a $7 annual fine. The fine was more symbolic than punitive.
  • Charge:
    • The fine resulted in 180 lost jobs for the 4th district at $25,000/year.
  • Reality:
    • Pilgrim had several hundred job openings due to the arrest of over 300 illegal immigrants at the time of the raid.
    • Unless the concern was for illegal immigrant jobs, Pilgrim would have broken about even hiring 180 new workers even after the fine.
    • The math used in the charge only covers 1 year of salaries to make the number seem large. The raid covered plants in five different states, so the "lost jobs" should be divided accordingly.
    • Pilgrim had announced layoff plans for 1,100 people just prior to the 2008 raid. The raid likely saved some legal jobs as layoffs and plant closures continued into 2010.
    • Charge
      • Pilgrim did not break any laws, but fell victim to identity fraud perpetrated by the illegal aliens. In other words they were unfairly targeted.
    • Reality:
      • Undercover investigations started in late 2006, continuing into early 2007. Pilgrim began participating in the investigation in 2007. Multiple actions followed in 2007 and 2008.
      • Employees in the company's Human Resources department were involved in the misconduct.
      • Pilgrim HR employees not only knowingly hired illegal immigrants, but participated in the document fraud.
    In essence, not a single one of the negative attacks made regarding Ratcliffe's involvement in this action are valid. Three charges, all false. Virtually no effort was put into verifying these charges before they were presented to the voters to be taken on misplaced trust in a politician. It would be a full time job to work through every twisted accusation, and it is inexcusable that it is necessary to do so. Hopefully the trend is clear enough. I can only speculate about the agenda behind the accusations, but it plainly has little to do with concern for informing the voters.

    John Ratcliffe is a conservative. He has been vetted and endorsed by a number of conservative organizations. He has made deep statements concerning his faith, philosophy, and positions on issues. His record may be limited, but what is there shows promise. His immigration enforcement action provided a rare bright spot in a category that has been full of disappointments in recent years. It was also clearly done in a way to minimize the impact to the company, while demonstrating the will to enforce immigration laws. I had never heard a conservative complain about the action until it came up in this race.

    John is a good candidate and I'm voting for him on May 27th. I am not willing to wait to find out what the establishment sausage factory will crank out for us in 2016, and I'm not interested in treading water for another two years as our beloved America falls into further disarray. Let's fight today's fight today, and deal with 2016 when it gets here. Please join me supporting John Ratcliffe for U.S. Congress TX-4.

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