Cobb ad plays up Stefanik pay, downplays her work

(Cobb photo by the Enterprise, Stefanik photo provided)

A television ad released by Democratic congressional candidate Tedra Cobb on Wednesday includes a misleading claim about the salary and work ethic of her opponent, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik.

The ad’s central claim is that Stefanik is not “doing her job.” She has been, as seen by her busy schedule, but just not the way Democrats want her to, and while boycotting several intelligence meetings.

The ad, titled “One Place,” is on Cobb’s YouTube channel.

“We’ve paid her a million dollars to work for us,” the voiceover says around 12 seconds into the video.

Text below an image of Stefanik sitting on the House floor shows the words “PAID $1,044,000 IN CONGRESS,” followed by a citation leading to a document serving as a rubric for determining congressional salaries. This is an average amount of money for a Congress member to make in six years, but in this format it makes it seem like an irregular amount.

Members of the House make $174,000 base pay per year, which has remained unchanged since 2009. Stefanik has been in the House since the beginning of 2015, so by the end of 2020, that salary — multiplied by six — does add up to $1,044,000.

Stefanik spokesperson Madison Anderson said Stefanik is paid the same salary as other members of Congress.

“We assume this means Tedra Cobb will publicly pledge to forgo her salary if elected,” Anderson wrote in an email.

Cobb campaign spokesperson Maruanda Simmons said Cobb plans to take the congressional salary.

“Of course, because she’ll do the job,” Simmons said.

Working hard or hardly working?

The Cobb ad begins with a voiceover: “Parties. Fundraisers. TV appearances. Anywhere to advance her career. But where you won’t find Elise Stefanik? Doing her actual job.”

When the voice says, “parties,” however, the ad shows an image of Stefanik standing on stage with President Donald Trump at a 2018 National Defense Authorization Act signing at Fort Drum. This was not a party but rather an official appearance for a major federal function in her district, so the pairing of the words and the image is misleading.

Cobb has also been fundraising during this campaign cycle, as candidates generally do.

The ad says Stefanik has “failed” soldiers and veterans, referencing Cobb’s claim that Stefanik has been “silent” on the issue of Russia allegedly paying the Taliban for killing U.S. soldiers. Stefanik has spoken on this issue and said the reports are unverified. She has not been outspoken about it and has not called for a congressional investigation, as Cobb says she should.

The ad then says Stefanik has “failed” struggling families and folding businesses by not delivering a new coronavirus relief bill.

Stefanik voted against a Democratic-written stimulus bill last month. The bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Cobb also said she would have voted against this bill, even though most of her fellow Democrats in Congress supported it, citing some of the same reasons as Stefanik.

Committee attendance

Cobb’s ad says Stefanik has not done her job, showing an image of an empty House seat. Specifically, Cobb has criticized Stefanik for boycotting months of House Intelligence Committee meetings, along with other GOP members.

Anderson said, “Stefanik attends every single classified briefing.”

This statement leaves out the fact that she has boycotted multiple public briefings this year.

In the earlier months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stefanik and eight other Republicans on the committee stopped attending all but one of the committee’s sessions discussing issues including China, the coronavirus and online foreign influence campaigns. Stefanik said these meetings, which were held online over the Webex video conference platform, were not secure enough, as they would be held in public and she worried about cyber-security.

She called the meetings “public spectacles.”

Earlier in the year, Stefanik and other Republicans also boycotted a House Intelligence Committee meeting held in the final days of Trump’s impeachment trial, calling it a “distraction” from more urgent concerns, such as a watchdog report identifying errors and abuses in the FBI’s domestic surveillance program.

“Elise Stefanik’s legacy as a Congresswoman will be her absence,” Cobb said in an email. “In Washington I will accomplish what Elise Stefanik has failed to: do the job, show up for work and serve the North Country.”

Vote attendance

Anderson said Stefanik has only missed one vote in her six years in Congress, adding that it was “because she was on the phone with North Country farmers helping them work through a crisis.”

However, statistics from govtrack.us and ProPublica show Stefanik has missed 11 of 3,454 roll-call votes. This means she’s missed 0.3% of all votes, still well below the 2.3% average among current representatives.

Reasons for missing these votes range from sickness to hosting the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. In one explanation, submitted to the House in December of 2015, Stefanik said she was on a “very important phone call with my constituents.”

For the majority of these missed votes, Stefanik informed the House how she would have voted, had she been in attendance.

An ad released by the Stefanik campaign Tuesday includes a falsified quote the Enterprise debunked in 2018, as well as a misleading claim on Cobb’s current position on Medicare for All.


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