AP FACT CHECK: Clinton, Sanders missteps

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Posted: Feb 05, 2016 3:08 PM
AP FACT CHECK: Clinton, Sanders missteps

WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest Democratic debate found Hillary Clinton in a defensive crouch about her Wall Street ties and making iffy claims about that longtime relationship. Rival Bernie Sanders offered a fumbling account of a campaign ad that boasted of endorsements that were bogus.

A look at some of their assertions, and how they compare with the facts:

CLINTON: "I went to Wall Street before the crash. I was the one saying you're going to wreck the economy because of these shenanigans with mortgages. I called to end the carried-interest loophole that hedge fund managers enjoy."

THE FACTS: Clinton was not nearly as tough-talking with Wall Street as she suggested in that remark and in her previous characterizations of her December 2007 speech. In a video of the speech obtained by ProPublica, she thanked her "wonderful donors" in the audience, said banks were not the actors primarily to blame for the emerging crisis, "not by a long shot," and praised Wall Street for its contribution to the economy.

At the same time, she said Wall Street had a hand in worsening the crisis and called for voluntary steps on foreclosures and subprime mortgages.

Altogether, she delivered a mixed message, not the unalloyed lecture that she portrayed Thursday night or in an earlier debate, when she claimed the speech's basic message to Wall Street was: "Cut it out."

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SANDERS: Asked about his campaign ad that cites two New Hampshire newspapers among groups endorsing him, said "As I understand it, we did not suggest that we had the endorsement of a newspaper... We never said, never said that somebody, a newspaper endorsed us that did not. What we did say is blah, blah, blah, blah was said by the newspaper."

THE FACTS: Sanders' 30-second TV ad, titled, "Endorsed," lists a variety of groups that it says are backing his candidacy, including postal workers, nurses, an environmental group and The Nation magazine, repeatedly using the word "endorsed."

Onto that list it seamlessly adds The Telegraph in Nashua and the Valley News, quoting favorable comments printed by both newspapers. Neither newspaper citation includes the word "endorsed," but that nuance is unlikely to be noticed by viewers. Both newspapers have said they haven't made any editorial endorsement in the Democratic race.

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CLINTON on Wall Street: "They are trying to beat me in this primary."

THE FACTS: Wall Street is not the anti-Clinton monolith she implied. People in the securities and investment industry gave more than $17 million last year to super political action committees supporting her presidential run and nearly $3 million directly to her campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org, a campaign-finance watchdog. Wall Street is the top industry donating to her effort, ahead of the legal profession, nonprofit institutions and others.

Clinton is taking heat from Sanders over her Wall Street ties, which go back decades.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Clinton has brought in more money from the financial sector during her four federal campaigns — for Senate and president — than her husband, Bill Clinton, did in his quarter-century political career. In all, more than $44 million was raised for her campaigns. This includes more than $1 out of every $10 of the money contributed for her 2016 campaign.

Clinton has often talked about how much she has raised from teachers, as opposed to big corporate interests. But the $2.93 million given directly to her campaign last year by people in the securities and investment industry surpassed the $2.88 million given by people in education, OpenSecrets found.

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SANDERS: "Almost all new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent."

THE FACTS: This has been a mantra by Sanders, but it relies on outdated numbers. In the first five years of the economic recovery, 2009-2014, the richest 1 percent captured 58 percent of income growth, according to Emmanuel Saez, a University of California economist whose research Sanders uses.

That's a hefty share, but far short of "almost all." In the first three years of the recovery, 2009-2012, the richest 1 percent did capture 91 percent of the growth in income. But part of that gain reflected an accounting maneuver as the wealthiest pulled income forward to 2012 in advance of tax increases that took effect in 2013 on the biggest earners.

Many companies paid out greater bonuses to their highest-paid employees in 2012 before the higher tax rates took effect. Those bonuses then fell back in 2013. And in 2014, the bottom 99 percent finally saw incomes rise 3.3 percent, the biggest gain in 15 years. Average wages also showed signs of picking up last year as the unemployment rate fell, suggesting the bottom 99 percent may have also seen gains in 2015.

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CLINTON: "I am against American combat troops being in Syria and Iraq. I support special forces. I support trainers. I support the air campaign."

THE FACTS: Clinton makes a dubious distinction. Although it can be debated whether certain types of military personnel fit the definition of "combat" troops, there is little doubt that special operations forces like those now operating both in Syria and Iraq do.

In the fall, a special operations soldier was killed in a firefight in Iraq during a joint U.S.-Kurdish commando raid on an Islamic State prison.

The Pentagon recently sent up to 200 special operations troops to Iraq to carry out a range of risky missions, including raids against Islamic State targets.

Pilots of fighter aircraft, bombers and other warplanes that have flown over Iraq and Syria, dropping bombs and missiles on Islamic State targets on a daily basis, certainly are engaged in combat.

Clinton said she supports Obama's reluctance to take the lead in ground combat in Iraq and Syria. But many military members are now engaged in combat.

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SANDERS: In a discussion about the North American Free Trade Act, Sanders said that "trade agreements over the last 30 years were written by corporate America, for corporate America, resulted in the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs, 60,000 factories in America lost since 2001."

THE FACTS: It's not that simple. Since NAFTA took effect in 1994, opening trade with Mexico and Canada, the U.S. has lost 4.5 million manufacturing jobs, but it's not easy to assign blame. In a report last year, the Congressional Research Service concluded that NAFTA's effect on the nation's economy "appears to have been relatively small."

Trade generally is a small part of the U.S. economy, and smaller still when talking about just trade with the two neighbors. Technology is likely the bigger culprit for job losses; robots and other machines make it possible to produce more with fewer workers.

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CLINTON on Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal: "I said that I was holding out that hope that it would be the kind of trade agreement that I was looking for. I waited until it had actually been negotiated because I did want to give the benefit of the doubt to the administration. Once I saw what the outcome was, I opposed it."

THE FACTS: As Obama's secretary of state, Clinton was far more enthusiastic about the Pacific trade deal taking shape than she became once she was running for president and trying to appeal to the liberal wing of her party. As secretary she had given speeches around the world in support of the deal under negotiation, saying in Australia in 2012 that it "sets the gold standard in trade agreements," a cheerleading sentiment she echoed elsewhere.

She's stated since that the final agreement didn't address her concerns. But the final version actually had been modified to drop certain provisions that liberal activist groups had opposed.

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Associated Press writers Lisa Lerer, Robert Burns and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report.