Kari Lake campaign ad fact-check: ‘Big Differences’ | Phoenix New Times

We fact-checked Kari Lake’s new campaign ad: ‘Big Differences’

The ad contrasts Lake with her Democratic opponent, Ruben Gallego, on immigration issues. It also gets a lot wrong.
In her latest campaign ad, titled "Big Differences," U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake discusses immigration. Sometimes, she even gets the facts right.
In her latest campaign ad, titled "Big Differences," U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake discusses immigration. Sometimes, she even gets the facts right. Screenshot via YouTube
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With less than six months before Election Day, U.S. Senate candidates Kari Lake and Rep. Ruben Gallego have started to flood the airwaves with campaign ads.

Gallego, a Phoenix Democrat, is dropping the largest ad buy of any Senate candidate in the country, according to the New York Times. His campaign has reserved $19 million for general election advertising. Meanwhile, Lake has planned a $10 million ad buy with $675,000 being spent in May.

The first advertisement of Lake’s campaign is titled “Big Differences.” The ad is a “joint effort with the National Republican Senatorial Committee,” according to campaign spokesperson Alex Nicoll, and is running on cable, broadcast and digital media.

In the ad, Lake sits with a group of mostly women who appear to be upper-middle-class suburbanites while reciting some classic lines about illegal immigration. With election season ramping up, you’ll see it a lot. And you might wonder whether the woman Phoenix New Times named the Best Political Grifter of 2023 is telling the truth.

That’s why we’re fact-checking it. This is the first in a series of political ad fact-checks — about races big and small — that New Times will run up to Election Day.

Here’s how the claims in “Big Differences” hold up.

THE CLAIM: “Illegal immigrants are pouring in from Asia, Africa, South America, causing crime, destruction, higher taxes.”

THE FACTS: Here, we have a magic elixir of semitruths mixed with debunked narratives.

While the number of migrant encounters at the southwestern U.S. border has increased significantly since fiscal year 2021 — and while migrants are traveling from countries outside of Central America and Mexico in greater numbers during recent years — there’s no evidence that they are “bringing crime” en masse or increasing taxes. In fact, numerous studies have shown that immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes than people who were born in the U.S.

And as far as taxes go, even the libertarian think tank Cato Institute concluded that immigrants pay more in taxes than they consume in public benefits. That matches findings from the Congressional Budget Office, which said that immigrant labor has been great for the U.S. economy.

THE CLAIM: “Biden does nothing.”

THE FACTS: President Joe Biden would like to do something to limit border crossings, but he can’t.

That’s because Republicans in Congress have blocked a bipartisan Senate deal that would boost funding for border patrol and automatically close the border when migrant crossing encounters average more than 5,000 a day over a seven-day period. (Republicans contorted that detail to suggest the law said 5,000 migrants would be let into the U.S. every day, which is not true.)

That deal was brokered in part by Arizona’s own lame-duck Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, whose seat Lake is running to win.

THE CLAIM: “We must finish the wall and stop the invasion.”

THE FACTS: Yes, this is an opinion and not a factual claim by Lake. But it still deserves attention for perpetuating some ridiculous notions about Trump’s legacy.

The border the U.S. shares with Mexico is 1,954 miles long. Ultimately, the Trump administration added only 80 miles of border fencing that wasn’t already in place. Out of those, 33 miles were secondary reinforcement for existing fencing.

To say that the U.S. “must finish the wall” makes it seem more feasible than it is. In reality, not even Trump could make much progress in adding fencing to the border despite it being one of the key rhetorical focuses of his 2016 campaign.

THE CLAIM: “Ruben Gallego supports sanctuary cities.”

THE FACTS: This is partially true. Gallego co-sponsored the Safeguarding Sanctuary Cities Act of 2017, which would have banned the feds from withholding financial assistance to state or local governments that limit their cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security.

The bill was introduced while Republicans controlled the White House and Congress. Thus, it was dead on arrival.

THE CLAIM: “Ruben Gallego supports allowing illegal immigrants to vote.”

THE FACTS: This one is bafflingly incorrect. The ad cites the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a bill about corporate tax reform and clean energy investments, to substantiate the claim that Gallego wants noncitizens such as undocumented immigrants to vote.

New Times asked Lake’s spokesperson which portion of the Inflation Reduction Act the campaign pertained to this claim. The campaign did not respond.

THE CLAIM: “Ruben Gallego is opposed to the border wall.”

Setting aside whether a border wall even makes sense, this is true. As proof, the Lake campaign cited “Ruben Gallego’s Twitter” from March 27, 2018, when Gallego authored three border wall-related tweets.

In one, he wrote, “Military families are on food stamps but @realDonaldTrump wants to use $25 billion for his stupid, useless border wall.” In two others, Gallego noted that he passed an amendment to stop Donald Trump from funneling U.S. military dollars toward constructing a border wall.
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