Cicilline Gifted Another Mostly True From Politifact — Seriously?

Oh my goodness. That was my reaction to this finding. Really?

I can really handle word-jockeying and picking apart statements word by word. I can handle claiming that “words have meaning” when coming up with the justification for the ruling, but at least be consistent about it!

My question is that if I say I do something 75% of the time and I actually do it 25% of the time, does that deserve a “mostly true” ruling?

Politfact is investigating Cicilline’s statement on a recent WPRI Newsmakers about proper pension funding in Providence:

“with the exception of the last year or maybe the last two years, we were at 100 percent”

Like any good investigator should do, Politifact looked into it and here’s what they found for the eight years that Cicilline was mayor of Providence:

2003 Cianci, John Lombardi, David Cicilline $42,008,000 80.25%
2004 Cicilline $46,321,000 85.99%
2005 Cicilline $49,329,000 92.15%
2006 Cicilline $51,454,000 96.22%
2007 Cicilline $50,584,000 100.20%
2008 Cicilline $54,200,000 100.00%
2009 Cicilline $48,509,000 99.80%
2010 Cicilline $50,299,000 97.66%

*Data taken from Politifact article

Ok sure, the funding level was “close”. It was in the 90s and it was more than the previous administration. However, as Politifact themselves often say, that isn’t what Cicilline said. He said it was at 100% all but two years. It was there for all but six years. That’s a big difference.

So the issue really speaks to Politifact’s credibility, if they have much left. They are, at best, inconsistent with their rulings especially when it comes to Congressman Cicilline. This is the same newspaper that int 2010 endorsed Cicilline for Congress, in part due to his fiscal management of Providence.


I have no idea why the Journal decides to compound their mistake by trying to make his fiscal management look better than it was. I would have thought that after being burned once by Cicilline on the endorsement that the editors would protect themselves a little better when it comes to its handling of his fiscal matters and call out his statements for what they are.

If this were anyone else who said they did something 6 out of 8 times and actually did it 2 out of 8 times, there’s no question Politifact rules that as “False”, as this one should have been.

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Max D.
Max D.
11 years ago

Not to forget Cicilline but what about ‘Pants on Fire’ by PolitiFact? They brazenly post the data in the article so you can plainly see the lie. Let’s not forget my all time favorite which someone commented on in the Projo, what about the very very first question to Cicilline:
Tim White: “Your pushing very hard for an extension to the payroll tax cut. Wouldn’t that just continue to weaken the very thing you accuse the Republicans of trying to undercut and that is Social Security?”
Cicilline: “No.”
Cicilline goes onto accuse the Republicans of having a devastating effect on Americans and the economy by not voting for the two month extension.
While the three panelists did a good job, Cicilline is like a bulldozer in an interview. His tactic seems to be as long as his lips are moving, the less chance he can be hit with a follow-up question.

11 years ago

The numbers don’t look terrible until you realize that it amounts to a multi-million-dollar shortfall each year over a significant time period.
Similarly, drinking an additional 190-calorie cup of coffee every morning doesn’t seem like a lot until you realize you’ll have gained an extra 20 pounds by the end of the year. Cicillini could, of course, explain to us how that would be Dunkin Donut’s fault.
I’m going to pay 92.15% of my cable bill this month. As far as anyone should be concerned, that’s basically 100%.

11 years ago

Dan, the other point I wanted to add, but didn’t want to confound the main point (that Politifact missed again) is the statement that Cicilline made and so many other mayors are making about their pension payments. They’re saying they made their payments because they paid what the actuarial said to make. Well, ok great. If the actuarial told you in 2000 to pay X and you’re still using that number in 2005, you’re going to miss your targets.
If the amount you’re supposed to pay is based on an 8% stock market return and instead, the market returned -20%, you’re not really paying the amount you’re supposed to. Sure, it’s what the actuarial said to pay, but it’s no longer correct.
Quite often though, when the market goes in the other direction for a while and it’s returning >8%, we see the towns pay less into the pension system, which is valid. But you have to do the same think in the other direction too. When the market is down, you need to pay more.
So to just stand there and say you made 100% of your payments is, to steal a phrase from Dan Yorke, intellectually dishonest.

11 years ago

I was wondering the same thing. Who was determining that a flat contribution was OK, for an underfunded pension system?

11 years ago

Here’s the part of the statement that was spot on (granted you’re just focusing on the headline statement PolitiFact used)…
“…the unfunded liability occurred because — and this happened in Providence for many years before I took office — that the city didn’t make its 100-percent contribution.”
That of course is mostly, almost entirely, true (should I read bias into why they picked the less accurate part of the statement to fact check?). The numbers under Cianci are pretty shocking, approx. 56 to 64 percent in all but his 1st two years.
And correct me if I’m wrong, but the Cicilline numbers also reflect a significant reduction in the yearly liability, which in 2002 was more than $66 million (based on $42,442,000 as 64.18% of the required contribution) down to roughly $52 million in 2010.
Not hard for me to see why he might point to this as better management than in the past.

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
11 years ago

This “Politifact” column is testament to the cliff that journalistic standards have fallen off at the Providence Journal.
Without question, if you replaced “Cicciline” with “Doherty” this would have been a “pants on fire”.
But, the liberals writing this crap, as usual, show their double standards. It’s like, hey guys, thanks for removing all doubt.
On top of it all, who really gives a crap about the stuff they cover in this anyway. They pick such inconsequential, mindless topics, then proceed to make a big deal out of…nothing! Who cares???
What they ought to do with this space in the paper, is devote it to some of the poor people who’ve had family members die, and print a half-decent obituaries for them, instead of raping the poor people with outlandish fees when they are hurting already. Good God!

11 years ago

“Mostly True”
We don’t need to wonder how they would have rated a Republican on a statement with a similar level of accuracy: remember what they gave Barry Hinkley on his tax code comment. And the difference of intent is important to point out: Barry wasn’t a) willfully lying b) about HIS OWN REPETITIVE, DECEITFUL ACTIONS, as David Cicilline was here (there and everywhere).
The biggest argument I have with the ProJo about PolitiFarce is their page placement of it: they need to move it to join the rest of the entertainment in the cartoon/astrology/sudoku section.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
11 years ago

It should at least be presented as editorial material,not reporting.
It is opinion,based on itberpretation of “facts”-of course Russ,in his Pavlovian response mode has to defend this garbage and Cicilline.

Max D
Max D
11 years ago

“Not hard for me to see why he might point to this as better management than in the past.”
I believe the new mayor referred to Providence as a Category 5 financial emergency. The fact that Cicilline managed it less poorly than his predecessor has been of little help to Providence now.
“So far, Providence faces an even steeper unfunded liability for these so-called “post-employment benefits”—an estimated total of $1,497,451,000 in 2009, according to the audit. As of that year, the city had funded just 7 percent of the cost. To make matters worse, the city contributed just 76.86 percent of what it should have to the fund in 2010—down from 88.16 percent in 2008.”
GoLocalProv Feb. 2011

11 years ago

How can something be “mostly” true?
Especially when the statement under examination is claim based on dollars or statistics?
If I say, “The Patriots have a perfect winning record this season,” how would politifact rate that?
They’re 13-3, right?
So they haven’t won every game, but they’ve won almost every game, so my statement should be “mostly true,” right?
Wrong! “Perfect” connotes . . .well . . .perfection!
And “true” connotes . . . well . . .truth!
Journalism had been so totally (ok, maybe partially) debased by ideology . . .

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