Reality Check: Republican PAC uses mostly false, misleading claims to attack Democratic challenger

An ad attacking one candidate for the Wisconsin Assembly relies on big money to push misleading and false claims.

The 30-second spot against 51st Assembly Democratic candidate Kriss Marion, who is running against incumbent Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, is paid for by the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, which gets most of its big donations from individuals and candidate funds and thousands from federal PACs, such as those for Koch Industries and Pfizer.

The disclaimer at the end of the ad said it is an in-kind donation to Novak for Assembly.

Claim: “Kriss Marion is … just fine with calling political opponents Nazis, dictators and enemies.”
Reality Check rating: misleading

The idea behind this comes from tweets from Marion.

News 3 Now could not find one where she called anyone a Nazi.

In 2017 she said, “This guy would make a great dictator” when quote-tweeting an article that talked about Democratic and Republican leadership in the state legislature not releasing records for a sexual harassment investigation.

Earlier this year, she tweeted that she donated to the Democratic candidate in northern Wisconsin, saying, “Tom Tiffany has been one of the worst enemies of Wisconsin lakes and streams.”

After News 3 Now aired this report, the committee behind the ad clarified via email, “The ad states that Kriss Marion is ‘just fine with calling people nazis, dictators, and enemies’. It does not claim that she literally said all three of those things.”

The committee pointed to a tweet Marion liked that shows a still frame from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” which showed a group of men with Nazi flags that user @BadgerStew captioned, “Here’s an artist’s rendition of light being used as a #disinfectant at the next Trump rally.”

Claim: “Marion supports eliminating levy limits, causing property taxes to sky-rocket.”
Reality Check rating: Misleading

Marion doesn’t come right out on her site and say she supports eliminating levy limits, but she hints that she does, encouraging local control over revenue options.

During a 2018 interview with WisconsinEye when she was a candidate for state senate, Steve Walters asked Marion about levy limits.

“Get rid of limits, and let’s create some more excitement and more interest in local government,” Marion said.

Right now the state limits municipalities on how much they can tax your property.

Eliminating that would allow your local government to raise that tax – though “sky-rocket” is misleading as we don’t know how each town, village or city would respond, and it would be their call (with public input).

It is likely at least some would attempt to raise taxes though.

An analysis from nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum found levy limits in slow-growth municipalities might be keeping these municipalities’ economic growth down, and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities made adjusting levy limits for slow-growth communities part of its priorities for this last legislative session.

Claim: “Marion backs the radical Green New Deal…”
Reality Check rating: mostly false

The source for this is Twitter, but Marion never said she supports the Green New Deal.

In her tweet she said the headline, “The Green New Deal is toxic in rural America” was misleading.

The article says the National Farmers Union – of which Marion is a member – said the Green New Deal doesn’t recognize the essential contribution of rural America. The NFU “supports no less than 30 individual positions that align with the values of the Green New Deal,” the article said.

Marion’s platform says she wants to support incentives for renewable energy at farms, businesses and homes in order to cut down on costs associated with importing fossil fuels.

After airing the report, the committee behind the ad shared the tweet it was referencing that News 3 Now was unable to locate prior to publishing. In 2019 Marion quote-tweeted an opinion piece from the Des Moines Register titled “Green New Deal could be a major win for Iowa farmers,” saying “Let’s do this!”

It is unclear if Marion was referring to the federal legislation when she said, “Let’s do this!” or if she was referencing the caption of the tweet of the article, which talked about incentivizing building soil organic matter, which is a policy proposal that would use farmers’ land to help pull carbon from the air.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original version to reflect information the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee provided to News 3 Now following our broadcast. RACC did not respond to a request for source materials prior to publishing.