Adam Hasner, fake conservative? That's the contention being made by George LeMieux, as the two Republicans vie for the GOP nomination to take on incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
LeMieux, a former U.S. senator, is challenging Hasner, a former Florida House majority leader, on two core issues: taxes and spending.
LeMieux campaign e-mails and Web posts on Aug. 1, 2011, show a cartoon Hasner wearing a joker hat and holding a mask in his hand. He is attending his own "masquerade ball" — one where he’s only pretending to be conservative.
"The Masquerade Ball gown Hasner has chosen on the key issues of taxes and spending is a prime example. Hasner’s rhetoric simply does not match his record. Hasner’s record includes:
• Increasing Spending – A 40% increase during his time in the legislature.
• Requesting over $92.2 million in earmarks.
• Billions in new taxes and fees.
• Voting to accept Obama stimulus money."
The earmark claim caught our eye. Hasner, elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2002, served as majority leader from 2008-10 before term limits ended his run. That means plenty of time to rack up requests for pet projects. But did he request "over $92.2 million in earmarks"? And if he did, how did that compare with requests by other lawmakers?
A more detailed look at Hasner’s record at GeorgeForFlorida.com clarifies the LeMieux campaign was talking about Florida’s twist on the earmark, the "Community Budget Issue Request." As we’ve written in other "earmark" fact-checks, it’s a way state legislators use to request funding for local projects. Lawmakers had to file requests — for a local park, say, or a new community wastewater system — and attach their names to each one.
The Legislature stopped the practice in 2009 as budgets got tighter. But the Florida House keeps an archive of such requests, funded and unfunded, at FloridaHouse.gov.
A PolitiFact Florida analysis of lawmakers’ requests from 2003-08 shows Hasner indeed made use of CBIRs to ask for state funding for everything from a community child care center in Delray Beach ($25,000) to support for a medical cluster and research institute in the Miami area ($20 million). He requested $1 million for "manatee avoidance technology," made regular requests on behalf of brain injury prevention efforts among seniors ($199,450) and asked for taxpayer aid for drainage improvements, boardwalk replacements and reclaimed water systems.
Over six years, his requests total just over $92.2 million.
We’ll mention that the archive doesn’t make it clear which projects ultimately won funding, and indeed some requests may have been made year after year precisely because they failed to attract lawmaker support.
Rep. Adam Hasner’s Community Budget Issue Requests 2003-08
|Year||Amount requested||Rank among lawmakers|
That means the amount of local funding Hasner requested for his district was in the bottom half of lawmakers in four out of six years, though it jumped to the 60th percentile in 2006, the year before he served as deputy majority leader, and the 86th percentile in 2007, the year before he took the top seat.
But even in 2007, the amount Hasner requested was eclipsed by top CBIR filers, such as Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, who wanted $202.3 million for projects in her district — nearly four times Hasner’s total.
A couple of other notes.
First, we feel we should at least mention that LeMieux has a record of voting for earmarks while he was in the U.S. Senate. LeMieux, who hadn’t held elected office before he was appointed to U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez’s seat in 2009 by his former boss, Gov. Charlie Crist, has claimed he never requested a single earmark. But he didn’t have to: Earmarks bound for Florida were already packed into appropriations bills before LeMieux took over for Martinez. LeMieux voted for several such bills. He also actively lobbied for local stimulus projects. Later, he voted for a moratorium to ban federal earmarks through 2013 — but so did Sen. Bill Nelson.
Meanwhile, as the Florida economy faltered, Hasner cut his own local funding requests in 2008 to a single item — $385,000. That put him last among more than 100 lawmakers who made local funding requests. And he was in the leadership when the decision was made to stop such requests altogether. Hasner’s campaign, for the record, thinks it’s unfair to call Community Budget Issue Requests "earmarks," which campaign spokesman Douglass Mayer said evokes last-minute congressional handshake deals.
"The difference here is transparency," Mayer said. "CBIRs are submitted with full accountability and voted on in the light of day. Earmarks are snuck in the backdoor of the federal budget process to avoid accountability."
But CBIRs are often referred to as Florida’s version of the earmark, and documentation from the LeMieux campaign makes the reference clear.
Where does this leave us?
LeMieux’s campaign says that "(Adam) Hasner’s record includes … requesting over $92.2 million in earmarks." On the numbers, LeMieux is right -- from 2003-08 Hasner requested $92.2 million for projects through a process called Community Budget Issue Requests. But we think there are a couple of caveats worth noting.
First is the CBIR process itself -- which was open and transparent. Legislators made requests for dollars in writing and were forced to explain what the money would be used for. Second, it's important to note that Hasner wasn't particularly aggressive in requesting money through CBIRs and more than 100 House members asked for more than he did in 2008. Lastly, it strikes us as hypocritical for LeMieux to attack competitors over earmarks when his own record — where it exists — shows votes and personal lobbying for local spending.
We rate this claim Mostly True.