Thursday, December 7, 2017

Another partisan rating from bipartisan PolitiFact

"We call out both sides."

That is the assurance that PolitiFact gives its readers to communicate to them that it rates statements impartially.

We've pointed out before, and we will doubtless repeat it in the future, that rating both sides serves as no guarantee of impartiality if the grades skew left whether rating a Republican or a Democrat.

On December 1, 2017, PolitiFact New York looked at Albany Mayor Kathy M. Sheehan's claim that simply living in the United States without documentation is not a crime. PolitiFact rated the statement "Mostly True."

PolitiFact explained that while living illegally in the United States carries civil penalties, it does not count as a criminal act. So, "Mostly True."

Something about this case reminded us of one from earlier in 2017.

On May 31, 2017, PolitiFact's PunditFact looked at Fox News host Gregg Jarrett's claim that collusion is not a crime. PolitiFact rated the statement "False."

These cases prove very similar, not counting the ratings, upon examination.

Sheehan defended Albany's sanctuary designation by suggesting that law enforcement need not look at immigration status because illegal presence in the United States is not a crime.

And though PolitiFact apparently didn't notice, Jarrett made the point that Special Counsel Mueller was put in charge of investigating non-criminal activity (collusion). Special Counsels are typically appointed to investigate crimes, not to investigate to find out if a crime was committed.

On the one hand, Albany police might ask a driver for proof of immigration status. The lack of documentation might lead to the discovery of criminal acts such as entering the country illegally or falsifying government documents.

On the other hand, the Mueller investigation might investigate the relationship (collusion) between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives and find a conspiracy to commit a crime. Conspiring to commit a crime counts as a criminal act.

Sheehan and Jarrett were making essentially the same point, though collusion by itself doesn't even carry a civil penalty like undocumented immigrant status does.

So there's PolitiFact calling out both sides. Sheehan and Jarrett make almost the same point. Sheehan gets a "Mostly True" rating. Jarrett gets a "False."

That's the kind of non-partisanship you get when liberal bloggers do fact-checking.


Just to hammer home the point that Jarrett was right, we will review the damning testimony of the  three impartial experts who helped PunditFact reach the conclusion that Jarrett was wrong.
Nathaniel Persily at Stanford University Law School said one relevant statute is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

"A foreign national spending money to influence a federal election can be a crime," Persily said. "And if a U.S. citizen coordinates, conspires or assists in that spending, then it could be a crime."
The conspiracy to commit the crime, not the mere collusion, counts as the crime.

Another election law specialist, John Coates at Harvard University Law School, said if Russians aimed to shape the outcome of the presidential election, that would meet the definition of an expenditure.

"The related funds could also be viewed as an illegal contribution to any candidate who coordinates (colludes) with the foreign speaker," Coates said.
Conspiring to collect illegal contributions, not mere collusion, would count as the crime. Coats also offered the example of conspiring to commit fraud.
Josh Douglas at the University of Kentucky Law School offered two other possible relevant statutes.

"Collusion in a federal election with a foreign entity could potentially fall under other crimes, such as against public corruption," Douglas said. "There's also a general anti-coercion federal election law."
The corruption, not the mere collusion, would count as the crime.

How PolitiFact missed Jarrett's point after linking the article he wrote explaining what he meant is far beyond us.

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