Political ads are beginning to flood the airwaves and digital platforms in the Illinois 12th Congressional District. Many of these ads attack the records of opposing candidates, but how many are accurate?
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, faces Democratic nominee Brendan Kelly, of Swansea. Green Party nominee Randy Auxier, of Murphysboro, also is running in the 12th Congressional District.
One advertisement, which began airing Sept. 18, was produced by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that supports Republican candidates. The ad says Kelly has been “liberal” on crime, a statement presumably meant to help fire up conservative voters in Southern Illinois.
A tagline in the ad that is repeated three times is an edited video of Kelly saying: “As prosecutors, our goal is not a conviction.”
The clip was taken from a 2 1/2-minute Belleville News-Democrat video shot in 2015 about rape and sexual assault prosecutions. The clip, however, is only a portion of Kelly’s full sentiment.
“As prosecutors our goal is not a conviction, our goal is not to make an example necessarily out of anybody. Our goal first and foremost is justice,” Kelly says on the BND video.
The ad also says that from 2011 through 2016, more than 50 percent of crimes in St. Clair County never go to trial. A recent report found 97 percent of federal cases end with the offender pleading guilty.
According to an analysis of statistics in annual reports of the Illinois Courts, from 2011 through 2016, 98 percent of convictions in felony cases in St. Clair County were as a result of a guilty plea. In Madison County, 99 percent of convictions were as a result of a guilty plea.
The CLF ad says Kelly “turned his back on women who alleged sexual assault,” citing February 2015 BND articles, specifically the newspaper’s Violation of Trust series.
In the BND investigation, between 2005 and 2013, St. Clair County failed to prosecute 82 percent of sexual assault cases.
However, the BND series found under Kelly, who took office in 2010, more reports of sex crimes are resulting in prosecutions. In 2012 and 2013, about 30 percent of reports resulted in charges being filed.
Kelly said he would change protocol for handling rape cases in order to increase prosecutions. Kelly also was named to a statewide sexual assault task force to improve the investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults.
Another new CLF ad features former Fairview Heights Police Chief Nick Gailius, who is the GOP candidate for St. Clair County sheriff. Gailius said in the ad Kelly is “soft on crime.”
In the ad, Gailius says Kelly “cut a plea deal with a pedophile who sexually assaulted two 14-year old girls, allowing the predator to walk free.”
The ad is referring to a case involving Todd E. Bramblett, who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years of probation after pleading guilty to two of three criminal sexual assault charges. Bramblett was accused of engaging in sexual acts with young girls in August 2013.
At the time, Kelly said the terms of the sentence were what the victim preferred “under the circumstances,” but did not elaborate.
Kelly’s campaign pushed back against the ads, which included a statement from retired U.S. Marshal Terry Delaney.
“I was in law enforcement for 55 years. I know Brendan Kelly, and I worked with him for years,” Delaney said. “As state’s attorney, Brendan is the leader in Southern Illinois on the issue of sexual assault. He led a sex assault task force that improved law enforcement’s response to victims of sexual assault. He’s increased rates of sex assault prosecutions, created a Special Victims Unit, and worked tirelessly with law enforcement to bring down all violent crime — while increasing prosecutions.”
The Bost objections
Bost also has disputed some claims in recent Kelly advertisements about health care.
Kelly has been critical of Bost’s healthcare votes including those at repealing the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare.”
The Kelly ad says Bost voted to “charge older Americans a massive age tax, to cut protections for people with pre-existing conditions and to raise costs for people in Southern Illinois.”
Assertions that the Republican health-care bill did not strip protections for pre-exisiting conditions were deemed mostly false by Politifact.
The American Health Care Act said access could not be limited to people with pre-existing conditions. However, insurers would only have to provide access to coverage, but legislation said nothing about insurance rates, according to Politifact.
Bost counters that he voted for the Upton amendment in the American Health Care Act, the House Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The amendment called for $8 billion to help people with pre-existing conditions pay for health insurance costs between 2018 and 2023. Even though the House passed the American Health Care Act, the Senate did not pass legislation that would have repealed and replaced President Obama’s signature health-care bill.
Before the ACA, insurance companies were allowed to charge older adults four to five times more than younger people, according to Politifact. The ACA limited that to three times more.
The AHCA allowed it to increase to five times more for certain adults over 50. It didn’t apply to seniors on Medicare or people who had insurance through large employers, Politifact said.
Bost said the proposed AHCA was meant to encourage younger people to buy insurance.
“We were putting together a bill that encouraged young people to get into programs because the forcing of young people did not work under the ACA,” Bost said during an interview. “So the pricing was set so they would come in at the cheaper price that would offset the more senior price.”
Bost added Obamacare reduced funding for Medicare by $750 billion.
“Somehow those costs we have to cover,” Bost said. “As we move forward we’ve got to understand that, based on need it’s going to be more expensive. It doesn’t mean the government won’t still be involved, but thing is, when you receive care, if you demand more care, the costs are more.”
In a couple of Kelly ads, the St. Clair County state’s attorney talks about how Bost voted to raise his own pay.
It is true Bost voted to raise his pay. He did so in 2007 when he was a member of the Illinois General Assembly; he voted to raise pay for legislators from $57,619 to $63,143. The pay raise was included in a bill that was a supplemental appropriations that had funding schools as well as other state operations.
In a response to the Kelly ad, Bost’s campaign said the congressman “has voted over a dozen times in Congress to freeze his own pay. While serving in the Illinois House of Representatives, Bost repeatedly introduced legislation that rejected an automatic pay raise for legislators.”
A look at those pieces of legislation included Bost voting for legislators to take furlough days in order to save the state money and he voted several times to prevent state legislators from receiving cost-of-living increases, according to a review of Illinois General Assembly documents.
An examination of several congressional appropriations bills show Bost voted for congressional pay freezes.
The PAC End Citizens United also has bought time to promote Kelly’s campaign, which includes a $594,000 ad buy that includes air time on both broadcast and cable networks.
One ad criticizes Bost for taking campaign contributions from drug companies amid the opioid crisis as well as saying tax reform benefitted big pharmaceutical companies.
Bost has defended his work in dealing with the opioid crisis and has previously pointed out he has voted to strengthen education on the use of opioids, getting Naloxone to first responders to administer, and having stricter regulations on opioids.
Expect more TV ads to hit the airwaves as the Nov. 6 election draws closer.
Kelly has reserved time for the fall in the St. Louis market, as has the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which reserved more than $1 million worth of time in the district starting next month, and the House Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Democrats, has reserved $381,000 worth of time in the St. Louis market for the last two weeks prior to the election.
The Congressional Leadership Fund ad buy is part of $3.9 million in TV ads that the super PAC has reserved in the Illinois 12th District this fall. Other ads are planned to be rotated in, said Courtney Alexander, communications director for the organization.