‘False’ accusation, labor endorsements in Bucks County congressional race

Scott Wallace, the Democratic candidate in the newly drawn 8th Congressional District (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Scott Wallace, the Democratic candidate in the newly drawn 8th Congressional District (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Accusations in this national Republican TV ad attacking Democrat Scott Wallace were rated “false” by Politifact Pennsylvania.

A new ad in the hotly contested congressional race in Bucks County attributes some shocking words to Democratic candidate Scott Wallace – that he believes in population-control measures to punish “irresponsible breeding,” and he thinks families with more than two kids should be “taxed to the hilt.”

Turns out Wallace never said any such thing or, as far as fact-checkers can determine, advocated anything like that.

The ad is from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which cites a Fox News report about contributions 15 years ago from the Wallace family foundation to groups interested in limiting population growth.

The offending words come from a brochure produced in 1968, long before the Wallace Global Fund made any donations. Politifact Pennsylvania pored over the details and rated the NRCC’s claim “false.”

But that won’t prevent the message from reaching plenty of voters.

Federal campaign reports show that the NRCC spent $553,000 on media buys last week as the ad began running.

Asked for comment, NRCC spokesman Chris Martin didn’t respond to the Politifact Pennsylvania rating, but he said the NRCC is “committed to holding Scott Wallace accountable for his extreme views.”

The campaign of U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, the Republican incumbent, did not respond to a request for comment on the ad. As an independent group, the NRCC is barred from coordinating activities with candidates it supports.

Meanwhile the Wallace campaign has a new ad that attacks Fitzpatrick for his vote on the December tax overhaul, arguing it benefits the rich and adds to the federal deficit.

Labor weighs in — for both sides

Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick got a boost Friday with the endorsement of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the region’s most politically influential union.

A little later Friday, Wallace’s campaign announced the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union and provided a list of 10 other unions that have endorsed the Democrat, including the Transport Workers Union and the United Auto Workers.

Union endorsements for Fitzpatrick are a little more striking since organized labor is often seen as more aligned with the Democratic Party than with the GOP.

Fitzpatrick has gotten the backing of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council and other unions.

The Inquirer reported last month that Fitzpatrick had raised $200,000 from labor groups, far more than Wallace.

Why?

Construction unions have a history of supporting both Democratic and Republican politicians at the state and local level, because they want a receptive hearing when they seek support in the legislature to fight anti-union measures.

Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, told me that Fitzpatrick probably benefits from relationships established by his brother, former U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, who held the congressional seat through 2016. As a county commissioner before going to Congress, he worked with unions in that role.

Eiding said Brian Fitzpatrick has also worked on building his own relationships.

“Brian has made a very concerted effort to reach out to people,” Eiding said. “He contacted me, and we had a good talk. We didn’t agree on a lot of things, like this tax plan, but it was a good talk.”

IBEW Local 98 said in a statement that Fitzpatrick had stood with the union “in opposing right-to-work laws while supporting federal project labor agreements and prevailing wage,” and he had “supported judges who respect labor’s rights.”

Local 98 has the one of the biggest-spending political committees in the state, expending up to $2 million a year on political operations and contributions. Local 98’s spending can be a game changer in state and local races where there are no contribution limits.

It can only contribute $5,000 to a federal candidate, unless it chooses to create or fund a super PAC which can spend unlimited sums provided it doesn’t coordinate with the candidate it supports.

Local 98 spent hundreds of thousands on super PACs supporting Democratic congressional candidates Brendan Boyle, who won a primary battle in 2014, and Rich Lazer, who lost his primary earlier this year.

In a statement on labor’s role in the race, Wallace said, “I stand with working families 100 percent of the time, won’t take a dime of corporate PAC money, and am thrilled to have received endorsement from so many diverse local and national unions.”

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