By Catharine Richert
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a labor-backed organization, has a new ad knocking Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer for missing votes during the most recent legislative session.
As an invisible red pen marks days on a calendar, the voice over asks, "What would happen if you missed one out of every five days of work for a year?"
"I wouldn't have a job," says one woman.
"My boss would kill me," says another.
"Tom Emmer missed one out of every five votes in the state legislature," the voice-over says. That's "142 missed votes in 2010 alone. Votes on education, veterans' affairs, and jobs."
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota gets its numbers right. But viewers beware: Understanding this ad requires some context.
Election season was already heating up when the legislature met for its 2010 session. And that means several lawmakers, including the Democratic candidate for governor, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, and state Rep. Randy Demmer, R-Hayfield, a congressional candidate, also missed votes to campaign.
Emmer, of Delano, was among those missing in action. In 2010, House legislators cast 621 votes, including votes on big ticket issues, such as education funding, as well as non-controversial resolutions and procedural moves. Emmer missed 142 of those votes, about 20 percent - or one in five votes - during the session.
It's also true that Emmer missed votes on education issues, such as a bill to fund K-12 schools, veterans' affairs, and two votes on an employment and economic development policy bill.
So, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is on the mark with Emmer's missed votes.
But it's still important to put this ad in context. Here's how Emmer's absences break down:
This year's session lasted a little over 14 weeks, and Emmer missed votes on 15 of those days. So, that's roughly equivalent to one day for every week the legislature met. However, he was present for some votes on eight of those days.
Furthermore, Emmer missed most of those votes on a few days clustered at the end of the session; he did not take one day off every week for the entire session as the ad implies. Emmer's campaign manager Cullen Sheehan didn't say where he was on those days, only that he takes his job "very seriously."
Though the Alliance for a Better Minnesota omits some context from its ad, the claim is essentially accurate. The group correctly points out that Emmer missed one out of every five votes this session. And most of those votes were indeed on significant issues facing the state, including education funding, taxes and the environment.
Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Really?, accessed Aug. 17, 2010
Minnesota Public Radio News, Some legislators skip votes to campaign, by Tom Scheck, April 22, 2010
Minnesota Public Radio News, Where's Emmer? DFL questions missed votes, by Tim Pugmire, May 13, 2010
Minnesota Public Radio News, House GOP hits back on Kelliher's missed votes, by Tom Scheck, May 13, 2010
Minnesota State Legislature, Recorded Roll Call Floor Votes By Date, 2009-2010 Regular Session, accessed Aug. 17, 2010
Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Tom Emmer's Missed Votes in 2010, accessed Aug. 17, 2010
Interview, Xavier Lopez-Ayala, spokesman, Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Aug. 17, 2010
Interview, Cullen Sheehan, campaign manager, Emmer for Governor, Aug. 17, 2010