Fact Checker: Ads attack gubernatorial candidates Bullock and Hill

Fact Checker: Ads attack gubernatorial candidates Bullock and Hill (9-27-12)

BOZEMAN, Mont. - Negative political ads are bombarding Montana's airwaves. In the weeks leading up to the election, we're running some of the most negative ads through the NBC Montana Fact Checker.

This week, I looked at ads targeting Montana's candidates for governor.

A Republican Governors Association political action committee paid for an ad attacking Democratic candidate Steve Bullock. Bullock is the current Montana Attorney General.

"When the heavy hand of the federal government pushed Obamacare on us, Bullock refused to join the bipartisan fight against it," the ad says.

This is partly true. Bullock did decline to join a lawsuit filed against the federal government by attorneys general and governors from 26 states. But the ad is misleading in calling the lawsuit "bipartisan." I went through the Supreme Court documents and found that all state leaders who joined the lawsuit were Republicans, except for Louisiana Democrat James Caldwell, who has since switched parties.

The ad continues: "This is the same Steve Bullock who's been endorsed by extreme environmentalists, while receiving only a 'C+' rating from the NRA."

I called the National Rifle Association headquarters in Washington, D.C. They told me the last time the NRA graded Bullock was back in 2008, when they did in fact give him a "C+" rating. But the NRA's 2012 grades come out on Monday, so while the claim is true, it's several years old and may not hold water in a matter of days.

As for the "extreme environmentalists" claim, Bullock is endorsed by the Montana Conservation Voters group -- one of the largest and best-known political conservation groups in the state. The MCV has a membership and communication list of 50,000 Montanans. We couldn't find any other environmental groups officially endorsing Bullock.

Bullock isn't the only gubernatorial candidate finding himself the subject of televised attacks. A Democratic Governors Association political action committee is running an ad attacking Republican Rick Hill. 

"Hill was a lobbyist, who tried to slap Montanans with a $400 million sales tax," the ad says.

Hill worked as a lobbyist under then-governor Marc Racicot, who did present Montanans with a $400 million sales tax referendum, as part of a tax reform plan. Voters gave it the thumbs down.

"[Hill is] a Washington, D.C., congressman who voted to cut Medicare and raise premiums for seniors," the ad claims.

Hill was elected to the U.S. House in 1996. He voted for President Clinton's balanced budget plan, which slowed the growth in Medicare payments to providers, such as doctors, hospitals and care homes. It did not cut benefits for any seniors, although some premiums did go up.

The ad continues: "[Hill was] a long-time insurance executive who supports a plan that could charge women higher insurance rates than men."

Hill said at a candidate forum in April that he does support letting insurance companies consider gender when setting rates. Critics of Montana's current unisex insurance law say it results in higher rates overall.

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