Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify the three mass shootings mentioned in the political ad were not all school shootings.
AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Just under two months from the November election, political ads are becoming a bit more personal and more intense. We wanted to begin fact-checking some content to help voters.
A recent ad targeting Gov. Greg Abbott lists a number of claims, blaming him for:
- School shootings
- Strict abortion laws
- Electricity grid mismanagement
- Higher property taxes
- 18 year olds being able to buy rifles
- Border shutdowns causing supply chain issues
Reporter Jala Washington watched the video with St. Edward’s political science professor Brian Smith to analyze and fact-check it.
“Four years of sorrow, tears, anguish,” the narrator said at the beginning of the ad. “Santa Fe School Shooting, El Paso’s Walmart, Uvalde massacre. Our children, teachers.”
“Not all of that can be blamed on Gov. Abbott, nor can all of it be disproven,” Smith said.
So, what can be proven?
The three mass shootings referenced in this particular ad have happened during Abbott’s leadership, and the electricity grid has struggled to keep up with demand, creating issues during the February 2021 winter storm.
But the claim blaming Abbott for an 18 year old’s access to firearms isn’t a fair accusation, Smith said.
“That’s not Abbott at all,” Smith said. “That is a federal judge saying the Second Amendment applies all the way down to age 18.”
Claims that Abbott’s increased Texas Department of Public Safety inspections at the border caused supply chain delays is also not completely true.
“Trying to blame the store shelves and beyond… that is a little specious,” Smith said.
The portion of the ad discussing a “ban on all abortions. Doctor’s choosing between healing and jail. Women’s freedom taken away,” is considered a fair claim.
“We know that’s true,” Smith said.
What about property taxes being higher in Texas than California?
“It all depends on how you look at it,” Smith said. “But in some cases, Texans are paying more than California, just because we have different tax systems.”
The ad was paid for by a group named, Coulda Been Worse LLC. However, we haven’t had any luck so far tracking who’s behind it.
“This is a classic dark money ad, that could be one person with a deep pocket running [it],” Smith said. “And because of that, [it’s] almost untraceable.”
Open Secrets, a nonprofit that tracks campaign money, said this lack of transparency isn’t good.
“It makes it very difficult for voters to be able to really [sift through] the messages that they’re receiving… if they don’t know who is funding those ads,” Anna Massoglia, editorial and investigations manager for Open Secrets, said.
Smith said you’re likely to see more ads like the one paid for by Coulda Been Worse LLC.
“At the end of the day if you say, ‘I remember what that ad was for’… it’s accomplished its goal,” Smith said.
You may be wondering, why do local television stations air political ads if they believe they contain false or misleading information? It’s because they have to.
The Communications Act of 1934 requires broadcasters to air them without censorship. However, the 88-year-old rule only applies to broadcast airwaves.
Cable networks and social media companies don’t have to operate under that rule.