TV ads are flying in the 9th District congressional race, but are they true?

Dan vs. Dan: The two front-runners in the NC District 9 special election

Republican candidate Dan Bishop and Democratic candidate Dan McCready are fighting for the North Carolina 9th District seat.
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Republican candidate Dan Bishop and Democratic candidate Dan McCready are fighting for the North Carolina 9th District seat.

Does Republican Dan Bishop oppose health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions?

Did Democrat Dan McCready’s solar energy business lead to millions in higher electrical rates?

Those are among the charges that TV viewers are seeing in the closing weeks of North Carolina’s special 9th Congressional District election as candidates and their allies blitz the airwaves.

Outside groups alone have spent nearly $5 million in the race, according to Federal Election Commission records. Most of that has been on behalf of Bishop. Two third-party candidates are also running in the Sept. 10 election.

Here’s a look at some of the most recent ads.

Sponsor: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

What it says: “Health care… It’s so expensive. But when Dan Bishop had the chance to help us, he stood in the way: Bishop was the only Republican or Democrat to vote against helping us get cheaper prescription drugs. He voted to let insurance companies charge higher prices for cancer treatments. Worst of all, he sided with them to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.. . . “

McCready has hammered Bishop over health care votes he’s taken in the General Assembly.

In 2017 Bishop was the only senator to vote against the final version of the Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act. Now law, it allows pharmacists to talk to patients about lower-cost alternative drugs. He had, however, voted for an earlier Senate version and has said he didn’t vote for the House bill because he hadn’t had time to review it.

As a House member in 2015, Bishop was one of just 10 members to vote against the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act that would have required health plans to charge cancer patients no more for oral chemotherapy than for standard intravenous treatment. Bishop called it “a pro-big pharma bill” that would raise costs by mandating “expensive new drugs . . . rather than allowing proven and effective older drugs to be used first.”

He would repeal the Affordable Care Act but in any replacement, he’s said, “there is uniform support on both sides for policies to require coverage of pre-existing conditions.”

He was a chief sponsor of the Small Business Health Care Act, which is awaiting the governor’s signature. It would allow small businesses to form associations that would provide health care for their employees. Barred under Obamacare, they’re allowed under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump. Association plans offer fewer benefits than those mandated under the ACA.

The bill requires that insurers deny no one because of a pre-existing condition, although according to NC Health News, it “does not limit the premiums that could be charged to those people.”

The bill passed the Senate with support from half the Democratic senators including Minority Leader Dan Blue.

Sponsor: McCready

What it says: “Health care costs are out of control but Dan Bishop was the only senator to vote against a bipartisan bill that helped people get discounted drugs. And now drug company money is helping his campaign. Bishop also opposed Medicaid expansion for working people and health care premiums remain sky-high. . . “

McCready’s campaign says political action committees for drug makers like Pfizer and Eli Lilly have donated heavily to the National Republican Congressional Committee and, according to the FEC, they are. The NRCC in turn is spending at least $2.6 million on Bishop’s behalf.

But companies like Pfizer also have given a lot of money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which in 2018 got $1.4 million from pharmaceutical interests, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The DCCC has spent more than $600,000 on McCready’s campaign.

Bishop has opposed Medicaid expansion, which most Democrats support. He has called it “a pig in a poke.”

Sponsor: The Club for Growth

What it says: “. . . The nonprofit McCready helped run bankrolled lobbying for costly environmental rules that raised your utility bills but made him big profits. Now McCready has taken thousands in campaign money from eco-extremist groups that back the Green New Deal. AOC’s scheme that could cost households here $65,000 a year.”

McCready’s company, Double Time Capital, has raised investment money for solar energy projects. In this and a previous ad, the anti-tax Club for Growth, which is spending $850,000 against McCready, relies largely on a July Washington Examiner article.

In fact-checking the earlier ad, the News & Observer of Raleigh noted that McCready served on the board of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association for three years through December 2017. The group did lobby for North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, a 2007 law that requires electric utilities to use renewable power.

As for raising consumer costs, the Examiner cited a study by Utah State University and Strata Policy. The study by groups financed by the conservative Koch brothers has been discredited by more liberal groups. The N&O rated the claims “mostly false.

Under state law, utilities can only pass on a limited cost of renewables to their customers. According to a spokesman for the state Utilities Commission, the original cap was $34 a year per resident, but the cost has never risen that high.

Starting in September, Duke Energy customers will pay 87 cents toward the cost of renewables.

Groups such as the Sierra Club have contributed to McCready’s campaign and do support Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ Green New Deal, a sweeping plan to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions and relying on renewables to meet U.S. energy needs. But McCready has opposed the Green New Deal.

Sponsor: The National Republican Congressional Committee

What it says: Man: “Oh Dan McGreedy.”

Woman: “So Lobbyists hired by Dan McCready’s board weren’t just pushing for insider tax breaks.”

Man: “They were lobbying to keep North Carolina’s energy prices higher.”

Woman: “Almost $149 million in extra fees.”

Man: “He’s so McGreedy.”

Woman: “So McCready and his investors get tax breaks to prop up his company but everyone using electricity in North Carolina pays more.”

This ad also relies on the same July Washington Examiner article that’s the basis of the Club for Growth ad, which the N&O fact check rated as “mostly false.”

McCready has responded with an ad that says, “Attacks on my business are lies. More tricks from politician Dan Bishop.”