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US Political Ads Reveal Stimulus Money went to China, Independents Moved, Democrats Object

-You just wish they would do this much research on Obama's record... 

AD NARRATOR [video clip]: Washington promised to create American jobs if we passed their stimulus. But that's not what happened. Fact: 80 percent of taxpayer dollars spent on green energy went to jobs in foreign countries. The Obama administration admitted the truth: that $2.3 billion of tax credits went overseas, while millions of Americans can't find a job. $1.2 billion to a solar company that's building a plant in Mexico. Half a billion to a car company that moved American jobs to Finland. And $39 million to build traffic lights in China. President Obama wasted $16 billion on risky investments.
HANNITY: All right. Now, I remember dial ads going as high as 90. Why do you say this is the best one? Is it because the difference between GOP and Democrat is not that great?
LUNTZ: No. Americans for Prosperity figured out that it's not just the emotional reaction to the ad. Does it actually change someone's mind? And we've been going, Sean, to Ohio, to Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida. These are the -- Colorado, Nevada. These are the swing states. And when we showed that ad, the reaction afterward was, "That's what bothers me about Washington, and that's what bothers me about President Obama." It was fact-based, not assertions. You see the facts come up on the screen. There's specific numbers, Sean. Americans for Prosperity unlocked the key -- in this case -- unlocked the key to what makes an independent voter move against Barack Obama, and it's wasteful Washington spending, helping the Chinese, not hard-working American taxpayers. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/9/12]


PolitiFact: Street Lights Were Assembled In U.S. For Domestic Use, But Some Components Were Manufactured In China. Examining a similar claim made in a nearly identical AFP ad, PolitiFact wrote:
As the ad's narrator talks about China, the words, "Stimulus money pays for street, traffic lights ..." "in China ..." appear on the screen, over an image of a traffic light that's slowly layered with the deep red and yellow of the Chinese flag.

The ad was clearly suggesting U.S.-funded lights on Chinese streets. It wasn't until we pulled up the Tribune-Review article we realized the ad's claim could be heard another way.

Oh! Lights built in China, for American streets.

But even that clarification didn't get us to the complete story.

The Tribune-Review article, by Lou Kilzer, a reporter who has won Pulitzer prizes forinvestigative reporting and public service, digs into grant money -- not tax credits, as the ad claimed -- awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It says that tens of millions of stimulus dollars went to replace streetlights and traffic lights across the country with energy-efficient versions -- "made mostly in Asia."

The reason? Certain components of those energy-efficient street and traffic lights, such as light-emitting diodes or LEDs, weren't available in large enough quantities from U.S. manufacturers back in 2010, so the Energy Department issued a waiver to the Recovery Act's "Buy America" provision for those parts. [PolitiFact, 5/3/12]
PolitiFact: AFP's Claim About Chinese Street Lights Is "Mostly False." From the PolitiFact article:
It is clear that the "tens of millions" reflects spending for American-assembled lights that included varying amounts of foreign-made components. But it's an exaggeration to say they were built in China.

None of this evidence supports the strong suggestion in the ad that Americans paid for streetlights on roads in China, or even that they paid to build streetlights in China. Instead, for less than a year, stimulus funds could be used to buy products that used components produced in other countries, including China.

Our ruling

We watched this ad and imagined Chinese street corners with shiny new American-funded traffic lights.

The reality is nearly the opposite: American cities, counties and states bought and installed new energy-efficient street and traffic lights with stimulus grants. Many of those lights contained foreign components, including some from China, but it's simply not clear how much stimulus money went toward those parts during the eight months it was allowed.

The ad's claim has a tiny sliver of truth, but it pairs words and images to create an altogether different impression. We'll have to put the brakes on this traffic light claim, and rate it Mostly False. [PolitiFact, 5/3/12]
Wash. Post: "The Lights Were Assembled In The United States." From The Washington Post:
Americans for Prosperity also asserts that the stimulus bill sent "tens of millions of dollars to build traffic lights in China." The source is the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, but again, the article was much more nuanced. The traffic lights are for the United States market, but the article noted that there is a shortage of American-made light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, so parts are sourced overseas while the lights were assembled in the United States. [The Washington Post4/30/12] One Signal Maker "Relocated Some Of Its Manufacturing From Mexico To The U.S." From, discussing a similar claim made in a nearly identical AFP ad:
Last, the ad claims the stimulus included "tens of millions of dollars to build traffic lights in China." The Department of Energy did spend tens of millions through the stimulus to build and install energy efficient traffic lights around the U.S. Back in February 2010, the department granted a waiver to the stimulus' Buy American requirement with regard to the LED lights that go inside traffic signals after the assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) determined there was insufficient availability in the U.S. to meet demand. A Pittsburgh Tribune Review investigation found most of those components were being purchased from Asia.
However, that waiver was withdrawn on Dec. 1, 2010, after the EERE learned that at least one manufacturer of LED traffic signals relocated some of its manufacturing from Mexico to the U.S., and that the plant had the capability to satisfy the demand from stimulus fund recipients. In November 2010, the Department of Energy reported that Dialight Corp., an LED lighting manufacturer with U.S. corporate offices in Farmingdale, N.J., and a parent company based in the U.K., invested nearly $3 million to renovate its production facility in Roxboro, N.C. The Roxboro plant hired 100 people to engineering, management and direct labor positions. [, 5/2/12]

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