Fact Checker: Don Young’s ‘most effective’ campaign ad

We evaluate the claims
Fact Checker is reviewing the truthfulness and accuracy of campaign ads.
Fact Checker is reviewing the truthfulness and accuracy of campaign ads.(Colin Lamar / KTUU | Colin Lamar / KTUU)
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 8:25 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With the election just weeks away, campaign ads making big claims are everywhere. Leading up to the vote, Alaska’s News Source will be fact-checking some of those ads.

Among the ads in circulation paid for by Alaskans for Don Young is an ad that touts U.S. Representative Don Young as the “most effective congressman in America.”

The ad begins with a set up meant to align challenger Alyse Galvin, who is an independent, with Democrats. The ad opens with, “While Alyse Galvin chased the endorsement of Nancy Pelosi, Don Young has been busy meeting Alaskans across the state.”

Campaign rhetoric is not something Alaska’s News Source is taking on in the fact checker, but we will look at statements of facts we can independently verify.

It’s true that Young has been traveling. Most recently, he visited Cordova, Ketchikan and Sitka.

The ad continues by claiming, “Don was recently named the most effective Congressman in America.”

That’s also true. The University of Virginia runs the Center for Effective Lawmaking, which rates members of Congress after the close of each session. The center issues effectiveness scores based on the number of bills each member sponsors, how far the bills move through the process and how important the bills are.

Young’s “most effective Congressman in America” rating comes from the most recent report, which looked at the 115th Congress.

“Young was the top performer overall,” Craig Volden, the center’s co-director, told Alaska’s News Source.

In the ad, Young couples the statement referencing the rating with on-screen text that reads “83 bills passed." That is found as misleading. While Congress.gov shows Young passed 83 bills — making the claim by itself technically accurate — the center’s rating system is more restrictive.

“What we have for the 115th Congress, based on the website Congress.gov, in that Representative Young served as the main sponsor on 62 bills, eight of them passing the House and five of them becoming law,” Volden said.

The center’s scale only looks at a bill’s main sponsor and downgrades commemorative bills, looking instead to more substantive and significant bills on big issues. Young’s “83 bills passed” reference is used in a broader interpretation than the reference it’s paired with.

The ad also lists a large roster of supporters, including “teamsters, laborers, industry groups, police employees” and more. That’s generally accurate, although shouldn’t be taken as universal. For example, while the Alaska Public Safety Employees Association did endorse Young, the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association isn’t weighing in.

Leading up to the election, we’ll be fact-checking more ads, including those from Young’s challenger, Alyse Galvin.

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