Fact Check 101 Debrief

Last week, I had the good fortune to meet a lot of folks interested in understanding more regarding the choices before them this fall. I did Fact Check 101 workshops at libraries in Princeton, La Crosse and Eau Claire, on college campuses, UW-La Crosse and UW-Marathon County, and for high school students in Onalaska.

Jerry Swenson invited me to the Princeton Public Library for the Fact Check 101 workshop and he made a mean macaroni dish as well for the pre-political potluck.

Besides the optimism gained from seeing so many people who want to learn,  I need to find a way to get others to replicate the potluck held by the good folks in Princeton. That would ensure happy stomachs and happy souls in addition to satisfied minds.

Anyhow, there were a few common questions asked about that I thought others out there may share. My overall premise behind these workshops is not to tell people my thoughts on a particular issue or law, but to help them get the facts so they can make the decision themselves.

There’s no shortage of opinions out there on what’s now colloquially called Obamacare. Any number of folks on line want to convince you their views on the legislation are accurate. What we did at a couple of stops is actually go to the legislation itself and then, we searched certain keywords that our attendees were wondering about. Here it is, so you don’t have to wonder about what it does or might do. You can discover it yourself.

I fielded a number of queries about Act 10, the legislation here in Wisconsin that ended up leading to the recalls of a number of state senators and the governor. Here, too, there are numerous opinions on line, but we steered our workshop attendees to the actual legislation itself, so they could figure out for themselves what it says and doesn’t say.

There were numerous questions about who’s  paying for all the commercials on tv, the mail that’s  coming to their homes and the calls flooding their phones. We were able to help explain things like Super PACs, 501(c)4s and other issues relating to campaign finance reform.

We looked up past campaign donors to Wisconsin candidates by zip code, by name and by profession by looking at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign database. Then, we turned our attention to the same searches to federal candidates at the Center for Responsive Politics, by looking under the “Politicians and Elections” tab for the page titled “Donor Lookup.”

If you didn’t get a chance to attend one of the workshops, we’ve provided the information we talk about on our Wisconsinvote.org website.

Overall, there is no need to feel powerless this election cycle. You hold the commodity that these campaigns want, that being your vote. Use these tools to discover who’s trying to influence you, to research issues that are important to you and to find the facts you need to make the best decision on Election Day.

Good luck fact checking and feel free to let us know if you have questions. Unfortunately, the political world is not necessarily a user-friendly one.

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2 Responses to Fact Check 101 Debrief

  1. Nancy Soth says:

    Great work, Adam. I wish such fact checking could be widespread. Here in Northfield, one of our good state senatorial candidates has been hit with four postcards mailed to voters with completely negative campaigning from an unknown source. One of our Carleton political science professors, Barbara Allen and her students have been studying political ads for years with lots of good data. Last Sunday I went to a presentation she gave along with Bill Hillsman, whose firm made the Wellstone ads. I learned very quickly that negative ads are much more effective. Hillsman’s firm doesn’t seem to produce them. I do appreciate MPR’s comments from time to time, when they do fact checking. I wish we had been sufficiently alert to establish this in Northfield.
    Thanks again for what you’ve done in Wisconsin, and I like thinking that you’re doing it in libraries!

  2. Beth says:

    Great links at this thread!!

    Sorely miss Adam in Denver, but happy that Wisconsin can now enjoy his reporting.

    But the links in the article can benefit us all, no matter the state.

    Thanks Adam!

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