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PoliGraph: Bachmann right on beer, wrong on bacon

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By Catharine Richert

Beer. Bacon. Corn dogs.

What sounds like the recipe for a great day at the Minnesota State Fair is also the subject of Michele Bachmann's latest ad against her DFL opponent Tarryl Clark.

"While you're at the fair, you should know that Tarryl Clark here voted to raise taxes on your corn dog, and your deep-fried bacon and your beer," Jim the Election Guy, a fictional character featured in Bachmann's ads, tells viewers. "So, if you see Tarryl Clark while you're at the fair, just ask her: What's up with voting to tax my beer?"

Here's what's up with that: When it comes to corn dogs and bacon, Bachmann's claim is on shaky ground. But she's right that Clark voted for higher taxes on beer.

The Evidence

Bachmann's staff points to a handful of votes Clark cast during her time in the state senate as support for the claim.

Corn dogs and bacon

First, it's important to note that Minnesota's sales tax does not apply to food bought at the grocery store. But it does apply to food that is sold in restaurants or by other food vendors, including those at the state fair.

In 2008, Clark voted for a constitutional amendment that would have raised the sales tax by 3/8 of 1 percent to protect water and land - commonly known as the Legacy Amendment. After the legislature passed it, voters approved the tax increase.

So, it's wrong to say that Clark voted for the sales tax increase. Rather, she voted to let Minnesotans vote on the Legacy Amendment.

Bachmann's campaign also points out that Clark voted twice in 2007 and 2008 respectively against amendments that would have allowed a referendum on a metro area sales tax increase meant to help pay for transportation improvements.

Bachmann reasons that, without the referendum, voters did not have the opportunity to stop the sales tax. But that's a stretch: voting against a referendum is not the same as voting for a sales tax increase on corn dogs and bacon as the ad says.

Beer

In 2009, Clark voted several times to increase taxes on beer, wine and liquor. But the legislation was vetoed, so the beer sold at the state fair is not subject to a recent tax increase as the Bachmann ad implies.

The Verdict

It's true that Clark voted for a sales tax increase on beer. But Bachmann's ad is wrong when it comes to corn dogs and bacon: Clark never voted to increase taxes on either.

Sources

YouTube, "State Fair," accessed Aug. 31, 2010

Minnesota Department of Revenue, Fact Sheet: Food and Food Ingredients, accessed Aug. 31, 2010

Michele Bachmann for Congress, Script and Fact Sheet, accessed Aug. 31, 2010

Tarryl Clark for Congress, Fact Check: Michele Bachmann Uses Voter-Approved Legacy Amendment to Attack Tarryl Clark, Aug. 31, 2010

Senate Journal, April 3, 2006, page 4525

Senate Journal, March 23, 2007, page 1267

Senate Journal, Feb. 21, 2008, page 6637

National Trust for Historic Preservation, Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, accessed Aug. 31, 2010

Senate Journal, May 8, 2009, page 4466

Senate Journal, April 24, 2009, page 2754

Interview, Zach Rodvold, campaign manager, Sen. Tarryl Clark, Aug. 31, 2010

Interview, Sergio Gor, spokesman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Aug. 31, 2010


PoliGraph is a regular series of reports that checks the veracity of politicians' claims. It is a collaboration between Minnesota Public Radio News and the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.

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