To be clear, PolitiFact has, as far as we know, no program it calls "Rubberstamps for Democrats." We invented that name for PolitiFact's propensity to put only enough effort into a fact check of a Democrat to find a result that reflects favorably on the Democrat.
PolitiFact Wisconsin gave us a terrific example of the genre with its Nov. 17, 2020 article supporting a narrative promoted by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.).
During a television appearance, Sen. Baldwin said the Department of Homeland Security said the 2020 election was the most secure in the history of the United States.
PolitiFact offered no context to speak of for Sen. Baldwin's remark. See for yourself:
That was the claim from U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, in a Nov. 15, 2020 appearance on WISN-TV’s "UpFront" program.
"We heard from the Department of Homeland Security this week that this was probably the most secure election that’s ever been run in the United States," Baldwin said.
Is it true that some of the nation’s own top cybersecurity experts disagree with Trump?
We're always curious about the context, even if PolitiFact isn't. In this case, we found that the journalist interviewing Sen. Baldwin, Matt Smith, led the senator toward her statement when he introduced her segment of the show (transcript ours, see starting at 1:05 of the video):
Trump has made unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud about an election the Department of Homeland Security this week called the most secure in American history.While it's certainly possible Smith and Baldwin heard that report independently, the interview gives the impression Baldwin is just echoing back what Smith had said.
That's clue No. 1 that PolitiFact was looking to give Sen. Baldwin a rubberstamped positive rating. Do fact checkers truly wonder "Is that true?" when a politician echoes back what a journalist said just a couple of minutes before?
More importantly, did the Department of Homeland Security say what Sen. Baldwin and Smith claimed?
Fuzzy Math: (EIS-GCC)+SCC=DHS
Looking at the joint statement to which Sen. Baldwin referred, it is credited to members of the Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (EIS-GCC) and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Committee (SCC).
PolitiFact, judging from its story and its source list, did no digging to find out the specifics of the relationship between the committees and the Department of Homeland Security. Instead, we get this:
On Nov. 12, 2020, officials from two Department of Homeland Security committees — the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council overseeing cybersecurity — released a joint statement debunking their own boss’s rampant misinformation campaign.
How did PolitiFact conclude that the people who signed the letter were DHS employees under the Trump administration, other than by jumping to conclusions based on similarly spotty reporting from one of its listed sources, Axios?
PolitiFact and Axios simply leave out relevant information. While the committees have members (at least one, anyway) who work under DHS, most, by far, are in the private sector or state government working in a partnership organized by DHS. DHS developed the partnership to improve election security infrastructure. So, when members of the committees release a statement telling us that our election was supremely secure, they are patting themselves on the back: Hey, we did a great job! How about that?!
It's not as if these committees were objectively examining this election compared to others to judge the level of security. If they had done that, we'd have it from them in a detailed report. Now, to be fair, the joint statement lists specific reasons for saying the 2020 election showed improved security. They mention the widespread use of paper ballot backups, allowing elections officials to go back and correct various types of mistakes. And they may have good reason to believe elections systems now have greater resistance to hacking than in the past. However, it is unlikely on its face that the signing members have any solid reason for judging this election more secure than any particular election in the past. If they had any such solid reason they didn't bother mentioning it in their letter.
When journalists like Smith or politicians like Baldwin say the statement came from the Department of Homeland Security they apply or echo misleading spin, implying that the statement has the direct backing of DHS. There is apparently no such backing. The strongest backing apparently comes from the decision of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency--directly under DHS--to publish the joint letter from members of the committees.
ABC News reported President Trump fired the head of CISA, Christopher Krebs, on Nov. 17, 2020 after Krebs said there was no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election.
Krebs said on Nov. 12, 2020 (via the Washington Times) he expected Trump to fire him.
Did PolitiFact make any connection between these events? Not at all. Or if it did, it was deemed unimportant.
In short, the Department of Homeland Security kinda-sorta-but-not-really said what Smith and Baldwin claimed it said. Which is to say it wasn't really DHS but at least one DHS official along with others working in partnership with DHS.
Review: Who they are and what they do:
Finally, here's a link to a list of the active parties for the elections GCC and SCC. The SCC has representation by voting system companies including Dominion. See for yourself.
To reiterate, it is nothing short of deceptive to represent the joint statement of a GCC and SCC as coming from the Department of Homeland Security. DHS has a finger in the pie, but that's about it.
And it's important to note that it isn't clear at all the select members who put their names on the joint statement carry the authority of their respective councils.
We could do another article on this PolitiFact "fact check" noting that it provides no specific evidence to support its claim that the joint statement "debunks" claims from President Trump.
The statement notably debunks claims from President Donald Trump and others that have alleged massive fraud.
Does it? Explain how, fact checkers.