Fact check roundup: Benton vs. Probst

If you live in Clark County’s 17th Legislative District, your head might be spinning from all of the campaign fliers, mail pieces and television ads about Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and his challenger, Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver.

Benton has tapped into that sentiment in a recent mail piece and television ad, in which he purchases hip waders to shuffle through an ankle-high pile of mail pieces. (Maybe he’s expecting more mailers between now and Election Day?)

All jokes aside, both candidates are telling voters that the opposition is lying. To help you sort through the mess, here are links to all of the fact-checking I’ve done on this race:

  1. Probst said Benton missed 299 Senate votes during the past four legislative sessions. Is that true? Yes.

  2. Benton pointed out that the state House allows legislators to step away from their desk while a colleague votes in their place? Is that true? Yes. They can do that in the House as long as the legislator does not leave the chamber.

  3. Probst said Benton was forced to resign as Washington State Republican Party chairman. Is that true? Technically, no. He was asked to resign but refused to. Then he was voted out.

  4. An independent group said Probst voted in favor of a new tax for soda and candy. The group also said he voted to overturn a rule that requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes. Are those two statements true? No. He voted against those two bills.

  5. An ad financed by the Democratic Party said Benton’s service as a legislator cost the state more than $1 million. Is that true? Technically, yes. (He’s been a senator since 1996, so salary and office expenses are bound to add up.)

  6. An independent push poll said Benton took the maximum per diem allowed during the special session on the budget this year. Is that true? No. Benton took most of the per diem (a cost-of-living allowance), but there were some days when he did not.

  7. Benton said the Democratic Party promised Probst $250,000 in negative advertising aimed at Benton, as long as Probst agreed to run against Benton. Is that true? This statement remains unverifiable. Benton declined to share his sources for this information, and my sources in Olympia said they hadn’t heard of such an agreement. Outside groups, including political parties, have spent about $180,000 in opposition to Probst, and nearly $200,000 in opposition to Benton.

Benton and Probst have signed the League of Women Voters of Clark County’s clean campaign pledge, meaning they’ve promised not to lie while campaigning. The pledge is not enforceable by law.

Meanwhile, independent groups, including special interests and political parties, are not beholden to such a pledge.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics

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