This week, voiceofsandiego.org published its list of "Top Whoppers of 2011," a compilation of the most devastating fact checks the news organization has leveled at public officials this year. We give major props to VOSD reporter Keegan Kyle, who uncovered what we consider the Lie of the Year, County Supervisor Bill Horn's epic tall tale of his days as a civil rights activist.
But VoSD's list only includes whoppers uncovered by its journalists. Yet they weren't alone in holding people accountable. Here's the top eight fact bombs we dropped this year: ---
City Councilmember Carl DeMaio announced that he'd coordinated with the Alpha Project, a local homeless-services organization, to fill potholes, as part of a community clean-up program Alpha oversees. When CityBeat contacted Alpha Project, its staff told us they had no such thing planned. DeMaio then attempted to cover his tracks by falsely claiming that public labor unions had blocked his mission.
In April, Congress became ground zero in the battle over reproductive rights as the Republican majority in the House attempted to de-fund Planned Parenthood. In a letter to a constituent, Bilbray said he supported the amendment because it would strip the women's health organization of "Title X" funds (a federally sponsored family planning program), which, he said, can be used for abortions.
Bilbray was wrong on two counts: The Pence Amendment wasn't about Title X funds (that project was to be cut under the overall Republican budget proposal), but rather cutting off all funds from Planned Parenthood. Also, Title X money can't fund abortions anyway.
After CityBeat called bullshit, Bilbray's office retracted the statement. That doesn't erase the hypocrisy of his position on the Pence Amendment: In years past, Bilbray repeatedly expressed support for funding Planned Parenthood in candidate questionnaires.
During a video-taped interview with CityBeat, U.S. Representative and mayoral candidate Bob Filner went off on a bizarre tangent about how two local members of the media were breaching journalistic ethics by calling him "a shit" over Twitter. The two reporters, Liam Dillon of voiceofsandiego.org and Claire Trageser of the San Diego Daily Transcript (though Filner called her "Cindy") never called him anything remotely close to a shit, as this video shows.
While researching an airport deal between the city of San Diego and a business partner of City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, Goldsmith laid out his investment strategy.
"I haven't invested in California property and businesses over the years I've held public office in order to avoid potential conflicts,” Goldsmith said in an emailed statement. That's false: Not only did one of his property investments turn out to be a potential conflict of interest, he also owned stock in two California telecommunications companies.
As KUSI geared up for a telethon to support the effort to get the Comprehensive Pension Reform initiative on the ballot, its opponents at the Labor Council tried a last-ditch attempt to discredit the broadcast. The council's lawyers sent a letter to KUSI demanding that the station disclose the program as an in-kind campaign contribution, claiming that state and local law requires it.
The law says no such thing and actually includes language specifically exempting broadcasts from campaign-reporting requirements. The ironic thing is that the same sentence in the law exempting TV stations also exempts labor unions from having to report communications among members.
Speaking of that CPR initiative: Petition circulators were spewing falsehoods in their attempt to qualify the measure for the ballot. These fictions included claims that taxpayers pay 100-percent of a city employee's pension, that fire fighters would be exempt from the ballot-measure's provisions and that the city currently has a union-only contracting policy. Here's some video of the tactics:
DeMaio made our list again when he threw a press conference claiming that the city was trying to enact a new fee for cat licenses. True, the proposal did appear in a list of recommendations to the city by its independent auditor, but the Mayor's office had already rejected the idea long before DeMaio made a fuss.
The non-profit media organization started a fundraiser in January that took a dig at other non-profits that receive tax money (like KPBS). The solicitation on the VoSD site asked the question: "How about a public service news source that receives no government support? You found it.”
Actually, no, you didn't. Using VoSD's own "Fact Check" format, we declared the statement "Huckster Propaganda" when we learned that the organization had accepted more than $28,000 from government agencies who advertised on the site. VoSD CEO Scott Lewis claimed that it shouldn't count because it was "advertising revenue," not grant money, even though all of VoSD's promotional materials describe advertising as a way to show support for the organization.
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