Candidates bend truth while 'On the Record'

Posted September 26, 2012 4:43 p.m. EDT
Updated September 27, 2012 12:30 p.m. EDT

— Gubernatorial candidates Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory both did extended interviews for WRAL's "On the Record" program over the past two weeks. And while the leading candidates both talked up their credentials, they also took the opportunity to level criticisms at one another. 

The following is a fact check of statements made by Dalton, a Democrat, and McCrory, a Republican, during their time with anchor David Crabtree.

Did Dalton veto Voter ID?

McCrory favors changing state law to require voters to show a photo ID when they go to the polls. It is a point where he and Dalton differ.

“If a voter ID is good enough to get into the governor’s mansion, or buy Sudafed, or to get into the Democratic National Convention, (for) which they required a voter ID ... then it’s good enough for the voters of North Carolina,” he said. McCrory added that showing an ID was “The same requirement to get a tattoo in the state of North Carolina.” And he said, “I’m very disappointed that both Walter Dalton and Beverly Perdue vetoed those efforts.”

McCrory makes several claims about where photo Identification is needed in this state:

The Governor's Mansion: Reporters with WRAL have been to the governor's mansion several times over the past decade and never been asked to show ID. However, for those going on tours of the mansion, "Picture ID is required for adults," according to the Dept. of Cultural Resources. (McCrory's statement is true.)

Buying Sudafed: State law requires anyone purchasing products containing Pseudoephedrine "be 18 years old and provide a photo ID showing his/her date of birth." (True.)

Democratic National Convention: WRAL reporters and producers who attended the Democratic National Convention said they were never asked for their drivers' licenses or other photo identification. Most say their credentials, which were issued by the DNC and did not have a photo, were rarely checked all that closely. Democratic party officials asked about the convention said they did not know of any events for which an ID would be required. (McCrory's claim is false.) Update: A spokesman for McCrory points to this page, which appears to be a DNC form for "official providers" at the convention. It does contain a line suggesting that people need show ID to pick up credentials. This may have been a standard applied to folks who were going to work behind the scenes at the convention, but delegates and reporters we spoke to still say no ID was required. While this claim may not be pants-on-fire wrong, we still find it's pushing credulity.  

Getting a tattoo: State law doesn't technically require someone who wants a tattoo to show an ID. However, it is a crime to tattoo someone under the age of 18. Tattoo artists we spoke to said they always made a copy of a person's picture ID, both to make sure they didn't tattoo someone underage and to have a record of who visited their shop. (Mostly true.)McCrory substituted the word "voter" for the word "photo" in a couple places, but his intent is clear. 

Finally, while it's fair to say Dalton opposes photo ID for voting, it is not correct to say that he "vetoed" such a bill. As president of the Senate, Dalton didn't have the authority to block the legislation. And it is the governor, not the lieutenant governor, can veto legislation. 

Also, it's important to note that Dalton doesn't oppose all voter ID bills. He has expressed support for a compromise measure that would have allowed voters to present non-photo documents such as utility bills or leases in order to vote. Requiring a photo ID, he said during his appearance "On the Record", could prove a hindrance to elderly, rural voters, many of whom may have let their driver's licenses expire.

Would McCrory's tax plan hurt middle class?

Both Dalton and McCrory have offered up tax plans. A comparison shows that while Dalton offers up a series of tweaks to North Carolina's tax code, McCrory says the state should aim for a sweeping reform.

Dalton claimed during his "On the Record" appearance that McCrory's plans would hurt the middle class. “He’s talking about redistributing the tax burden … he’s talking about upping the consumption taxes," Dalton said. He makes the same claim in a new television ad.

McCrory does indeed talk about eliminating the corporate income tax in North Carolina and lowering the state's individual income tax. That would likely require some expansion of the sales tax base. Lawmakers have long talked about broadening the sales tax base – taxing more things – as a way to lower the sales tax rate. Dalton has taken the position that he opposes the expansion of the sales tax base.

McCrory's written tax plan is far from specific and he has not himself embraced a single tax reform approach. For this reason, it's hard to say that he favors moving to any one kind of tax.

Dalton points to appearances McCrory made with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. On those occasions, McCrory was very complementary of Florida's tax and regulatory environment. Florida doesn't have an income tax and relies heavily on sales tax. Still, in interviews both McCrory and his campaign staff have said that does not mean McCrory thinks North Carolina should adopt Florida's tax system in its entirety. 

It is worth noting that when asked about taxes during his "On the Record" taping, McCrory focused on energy production. He specifically said that allowing on-shore and off-shore exploration for natural gas could both create jobs and tax revenue that would offset the need for other taxes. 

Without more detailed understanding of McCrory's plans, Dalton's claim is impossible to prove true or false.

Which campaign is keeping secrets?

McCrory has repeatedly linked Dalton to incumbent Perdue, pointing out that her 2008 campaign has repaid thousands of dollars in illegal donations. (It's fair to note at least one set of donors linked to McCrory has also come under scrutiny.) Both McCrory's and Dalton's campaigns have been audited by the State Board of Elections this year, which has found only minor missteps thus far. 

Dalton and his allies have attempted to seize the high ground in the transparency debate. Earlier this year, Dalton released his tax returns, and he has since challenged McCrory to do the same.

McCrory has refused, providing fodder for more than one campaign ad.

“He has refused to let people see his tax returns," Dalton said of McCrory during his "On the Record" appearance.

McCrory told Crabtree, “I’ve released my financial, everything financial of where I get my income, exactly as the lieutenant governor did while he was lieutenant governor and while he was head of the Senate budget committee.” He added, “My stocks, where I get my W-2 forms, who has paid me, that’s all been released."

So who's telling the truth? Both of them.

McCrory has declined to release his tax returns, a practice which has become fairly standard. Both Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who have campaigned for McCrory, released their tax returns as part of political campaigns. 

However, McCrory is correct that he has done all the law requires him to do. His statement of economic interest filed with the N.C. state ethics commission lists his employers, stocks held and other financial interests. And it should be noted that his tax form likely wouldn't answer the biggest question that Dalton and Democratic groups are asking about McCrory. They have pressed McCrory about who he works for as a consultant for a law firm. Most likely, the tax return would only show McCrory's salary from the law firm, but not specify his clients. 

Do taxes send jobs packing?

During his "On the Record" appearance, McCrory argued that North Carolina's taxes were driving companies out of the state.

“Just yesterday, a major business left the Charlotte area and moved across the border to South Carolina with several hundred employees. And part of it is because their tax rates are lower," McCrory said during his Sept. 21 interview.

This was apparently a reference to the Internet company Shutterfly moving out of state. The company's news release announcing the move talks up the expansion but does not give a specific reason for choosing South Carolina over North Carolina, noting the new facility is less than ten miles from the current location. News reports note that South Carolina offered economic development incentives to lure the company. Those knowledgeable about the deal mentioned tax breaks that North Carolina and South Carolina offered as a factor, but not the overall tax systems.

A call placed to Shutterfly Wednesday afternoon was not immediately returned. McCrory appears to have drawn a broad conclusion on this one. It is not completely true.