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Reality Check: Group runs misleading ad on Janesville GM plant

Published On: Sep 18 2012 05:57:11 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 18 2012 10:29:28 PM CDT

It may look and sound like it's coming from a local group, but an Iowa group is sharing its version of the history of General Motors in Janesville in a television ad.

The ad is paid for by the American Future Fund, which is a 501(c)4 organization. That's a special classification of nonprofit that allows them to spend up to half of their money on political causes, without having to disclose any of their donors. The group is run by an Iowa state legislator, and the website said it was formed to provide a "conservative and free-market viewpoint."

The ad begins by playing a video clip of then candidate Barack Obama speaking at the GM plant in Janesville in February 2008, with a banner saying "his words gave us hope."

"I believe that if your government is there to support you and give you the assistance you need to retool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another 100 years," Obama says in the ad.

You then hear U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's voice, taken from his speech at the Republican National Convention.

"Well, as it turned out that plant didn't last another year," said Ryan, as another banner comes across the screen, saying, "But results matter more than promises."

Ryan goes on to say, "And that's how it is in so many towns, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight." The ad shows a citation from an Associated Press article from April 2009 saying the plant was closing for good.

WISC-TV found this is misleading. WISC-TV looked at this issue when Ryan made this argument in his convention speech.

Yes, the plant shut down for good in 2009, but the announcement of the planned closing and a ramp-down in production happened before Obama was even president. GM executives announced the planned closure of the Janesville plant in June 2008, saying there was no demand for the trucks and SUVs the plant was producing. They then ramped down production in December 2008, and completely closed it in April 2009, after the auto bailout and Obama had been president for four months.

Did the president say he thought the plant would be there for a 100 years? Absolutely. But his belief was contingent on a re-tool of the plant to make fuel-efficient vehicles, which GM never did. And while Obama has tried to push GM to make more fuel-efficient vehicles, nowhere has it been made apparent that he pushed for a re-opening of the plant either.

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