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Fact-check: Does Joe Manchin have a $700,000 Luxury Yacht?

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A screenshot from a National Republican Senatorial Committee ad against Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Credit: NRSC

The National Republican Senatorial Committee — the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm — didn’t hold back in a campaign ad aimed at Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

The ad, released in early August, charged that “West Virginia Joe” had transformed himself into “Washington Joe.” And a key exhibit for this argument was a pricey boat he owned.

Manchin owns a “$700,000 D.C. luxury yacht,” the ad said, illustrating the claim with a photograph showing a docked vessel.

 

Is this accurate? We took a closer look.

Does Manchin own a boat?

Manchin’s campaign does not dispute that he owns a boat, “Almost Heaven,” saying it is where Manchin has typically lived when in Washington and not back home in West Virginia.

In fact, the boat is hardly a secret. It has been written about periodically before; articles often mention sessions he’s held on the boat with other lawmakers to negotiate legislation and strategy.

In 2014, for instance, Time magazine wrote that both “Almost Heaven” and Manchin’s previous vessel, the “Black Tie,” serve as “a kind of floating incubator of that tenderest of Washington flowers in the first decades of the 21st century: bipartisanship.”

Is the vessel worth $700,000?

To back up its assertion, the NRSC provided PolitiFact with a document labeled “general index or abstract of title continuation sheet No. 1,” the cost of the vessel was listed $700,000.

Manchin’s campaign instead offered a different document with a lower dollar figure.

That document, a memorandum of sale from 2014, said the purchase price for the vessel was $220,000. The document says that Manchin purchased the boat from M&T Bank, with National Liquidators as the broker of the sale.

Independent experts we contacted were unable to explain the difference in the two dollar figures, beyond speculating that the vessel was purchased from a seller eager to get rid of it and later insured at the boat’s market value.

Is it a “luxury yacht”?

According to Boats.com, any vessel “over 40 feet long almost always qualifies” as a yacht. By the length standard alone, that would qualify “Almost Heaven” as a yacht: The vessel, built in 2001, is 65 feet long, according to Coast Guard documents provided to PolitiFact by the NRSC.

Whether it’s a “luxury” vessel, however, is in the eye of the beholder.

According to the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, the word “yacht … connotes elegance and expense.” Boats.com adds, “Just as a cocky walk would never be mistaken for a limping shuffle, yacht attitude is the net result of a combination of factors that are easy to spot as a group but hard to quantify individually.”

The vessel is listed as “recreational” on documents. However, a less confrontational — but similarly accurate — description could be “houseboat,” since it is Manchin’s residence in Washington.

Our ruling

The NRSC said that Manchin has a “$700,000 D.C. luxury yacht.”

There’s no dispute that Manchin has a boat docked in Washington, D.C. Its 40-foot length would generally qualify it as a yacht, but since Manchin lives there when he is in town, it could be just as easily described as a houseboat. The vessel was purchased for much less, but it appears to be insured for $700,000. Whether it qualifies as a “luxury” vessel is a matter of opinion.

The information we’ve found backs up elements of both the NRSC’s original assertion and Manchin’s counterargument, so we rate it Half True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

Fact Check

Fact-check: Joe Manchin Wrong that W.Va. is First in Nation in Veterans

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Sen. Joe Manchin speaks at a teachers' rally in Charleston, W.Va., on Sept. 16, 2018. Photo: Emily Martin/PolitiFact

Addressing a crowd of teachers and public employees at a Sept. 16 rally at the Capitol in Charleston, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., touted a number of things his home state can be proud of.

“I’m from a little state, most patriotic state in the nation,” Manchin told the crowd. “More veterans per capita, fought in more wars, shed more blood, lost more lives … than any state. On top of that we’ve done all the heavy lifting. We mined the coal that made the steel that built the guns and ships, built the factories, built the middle class that gave you the quality of life you have today.”

Was he right that West Virginia has “more veterans per capita” than any state?

Manchin’s office did not respond to inquiries for this article, but we turned to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. We found a chart ranking the states based on the number of veterans as a percentage of the state’s civilian population age 18 and older. In this chart, West Virginia ranked 14th in the nation.

However, the most recent data in this chart was from 2013, so we decided to look at any more recent data we could find.

In 2016, there were 145,171 veterans in West Virginia, according to Census Bureau data. That’s just under 8 percent of the state’s estimated population of 1,815,857. (For this calculation, we used total population rather than just civilians over 18.)

West Virginia’s percentage was higher than the national percentage — nationwide, veterans made up 5.7 percent of the population in 2016 — but it ranked below a number of other states. In fact, West Virginia doesn’t even make the top five:

• Alaska: 9.2 percent

• Maine: 8.5 percent

• Montana: 8.4 percent

• Virginia: 8.2 percent

• Wyoming: 8.1 percent

Our ruling

Manchin said that West Virginia has “more veterans per capita” than any state.

Compared to the nation as a whole, West Virginia’s percentage of veterans is higher than average. But it’s not first on the list — in fact, it’s not even in the top five.

We rate the statement False.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: David McKinley Correct about Rise in W.Va. Tax Receipts

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Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photo: AP Photo

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., touted his state’s economic performance in an Aug. 14 tweet.

He tweeted, “West Virginia’s economic comeback continues. Personal income tax collections up 14% from 2017. Most people working is good news.”

 

The unemployment rate in West Virginia has been steady at either 5.3 percent or 5.4 percent since September 2017, lower than the state’s rate for most of the period between 2009 and 2016.

Here, though, we’ll focus on McKinley’s claim about tax collections.

To support this point, McKinley linked to an article in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. However, the 14 percent figure doesn’t appear in the article. So we decided to take a closer look.

We turned to the official state budget website and looked at the revenue collection data for July going back to 2000. This data does support McKinley’s data point.

In July 2018, the state collected $145,494,000 in personal income tax revenues. By comparison, in July 2017, the state collected $128,146,000. That’s an increase of 13.5 percent, which rounds up to 14 percent — just as McKinley tweeted.

For historical perspective, that’s well below the largest increases, but it’s the third highest year-over-year increase since 2001.

Our ruling

McKinley wrote that in West Virginia, “personal income tax collections (were) up 14% from 2017.”

That’s correct when you compare income tax collections in July 2018 to July 2017. It’s also the third-largest July-to-July improvement since 2001. We rate the statement True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Did Patrick Morrisey Make Efforts to Put Educators in Jail?

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West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey speaks on Sept. 18, 2017, at a news conference at Marshall University. Photo: Joh Raby/AP

The West Virginia teachers’ strike in February was months ago, but rhetoric about the strike has continued to crop up on the campaign trail.

On Sept. 14, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — who is in a tough reelection contest against West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey — tweeted, “It’s really a shame that Pat doesn’t have the guts to answer questions about his lawsuit to take away coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, his career as a Washington lobbyist for the opioid industry, or his efforts to put educators in jail.”

 

We’ve already looked at the question of pre-existing conditions and his lobbying history, so we decided to look at the question about the teachers’ strike.

PolitiFact previously concluded that Morrisey was on solid legal ground when he said the teacher strike was unlawful. But did he make efforts to put teachers behind bars, as Manchin charged?

Let’s take a closer look. (Manchin’s office did not respond to inquiries.)

The strike

Teachers in West Virginia went on a nine-day strike on Feb. 23, 2018, after Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill giving teachers and other state employees a 1 percent to 2 percent pay raise, an amount they deemed insufficient. The striking teachers sought higher salaries and relief from rising health care costs.

The strike involved 34,000 workers and touched all 55 counties; it was considered one of the nation’s biggest strikes in recent years, according to The New York Times. It ended when Justice signed a bill giving teachers a 5 percent raise.

Morrisey’s stance

From the start, Morrisey asserted that the strike was unlawful.

On Feb. 21, 2018, he tweeted, “The impending work stoppage is unlawful and should come to an end.”

As we’ve previously reported, there was precedent for this. During a 1990 teacher strike, the West Virginia Supreme Court found that the stoppage was unlawfulbecause “public employees provide essential public services which, if interrupted by strikes, would threaten the public welfare.” A preliminary injunction was issued by Jefferson County Court in 1990, ending the strike.

MetroNews reported that Morrissey was ready to take legal action against striking teachers if he was asked to do so under the law.

“Let us make no mistake,” Morrisey told MetroNews on Feb. 21. “The impending work stoppage is unlawful. State law and court rulings give specific parties avenues to remedy such illegal conduct, including the option to seek an injunction to end an unlawful strike.”

“Unlawful” doesn’t mean “criminal”

However, Morrisey’s words were more precise — and accurate — than Manchin’s. Morrisey said the strikes would be unlawful — but that doesn’t mean they would lead to “jail” for striking teachers.

“The teachers may have been subject to an injunction to go back to work, but they could not have been prosecuted for going out on strike,” said West Virginia University law professor Bob Bastress.

In a news release at the time, Morrisey talked about the possibility of seeking an injunction — but not jail. “State law and court rulings give specific parties avenues to remedy such illegal conduct, including the option to seek an injunction to end an unlawful strike,” he wrote.

When we reached out to Morrisey’s campaign, a spokesman said that Morrisey never suggested locking up teachers. “You can go through his statements from the time, and you won’t find anything that suggests what Manchin is claiming,” the campaign said in a statement.

When asked about what Morrisey meant when hold MetroNews he was willing to take “legal action” against teachers, the Morrisey campaign cited an opinion letter by the then-Attorney General, Democrat Roger Tompkins, in 1990.

Tompkins wrote that teachers who went on strike in 1990 could be “disqualified from teaching in a public school for one year, and the state department of education and county board of education may withhold all papers and credentials of such teacher.”

These are serious consequences — but well short of jail.

“Morrisey has civil legal authority, which does not include criminal authority,” the campaign said. “That authority is left to the governor and the criminal justice system.”

Our ruling

Manchin tweeted that Morrisey made “efforts to put educators in jail.”

Morrisey, in his capacity as attorney general, said the strike was unlawful — but that meant that striking teachers could have been punished by disciplinary actions, not criminal charges that could land them in jail. While the disciplinary actions could have had severe consequences in some cases, Manchin’s suggestion that “jail” could have resulted is a significant exaggeration.

We rate the statement False.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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