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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: Does West Virginia have the Nation’s Fourth-worst Poverty Rate?

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This March 15, 2018 photo shows Moundsville, W.Va., from a nearby farm. Photo: Paul Vernon/AP Photo

In a Nov. 8 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Democratic state Sen. Mike Romano expressed concern about the state of the West Virginia economy.

“Our poverty rate, which has not declined since the Great Recession, was 19.1 percent, the fourth-highest in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” Romano wrote.

Are Romano’s statistics about West Virginia poverty accurate? We took a closer look.

We turned to official U.S. Census Bureau data for poverty by state and looked at 2017, the most recent year for which data was available. While there are two main Census Bureau sources for poverty statistics — the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey — experts we consulted with agreed that the American Community Survey data was better for a statewide statistic because it has a much larger sample size.

Romano was correct that West Virginia had the fourth-highest poverty rate of any state in 2017, at 19.1 percent.

Here are the five states with the highest poverty rates that year:

1. Mississippi: 19.8 percent

2. Louisiana: 19.7 percent

3. New Mexico: 19.7 percent

4. West Virginia: 19.1 percent

5. Kentucky: 17.2 percentOur ruling

Romano said the poverty rate in West Virginia “was 19.1 percent, the fourth-highest in the country.”

He’s right on both counts, so we rate his statement True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Have Median Incomes in West Virginia Not Risen in a Decade?

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Minden, West Virginia. Photo: Brittany Patterson/ WVPB

In a Nov. 8 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Democratic state Sen. Mike Romano offered a litany of troubling statistics about West Virginia’s economy and urged the creation of “a real economic comeback” in West Virginia.

One of Romano’s statistics was that, “adjusting for inflation, West Virginia’s median household income has not grown in a decade.”

We fact-checked two other statements from his op-ed that turned out to be True.

Is the latest one on stagnant income correct? We turned to official federal data from the Census Bureau to find out.

That data shows that in 2007, the inflation-adjusted median household income in West Virginia was $49,885 — the culmination of a decade and a half of consistent gains above the rate of inflation.

But one decade later, the 2007 figure remains the state’s highest median income level since the statistic was first recorded in 1984. Over that decade, the median income fell by 9 percent when factoring in inflation. (Data for 2018 is not available yet.)

The nation as a whole has seen some income stagnation since 1999, but nothing as severe as West Virginia experienced. Nationally, median incomes have risen every year since 2014 and hit an all-time high in 2017.

Comparing the specific years Romano used — 2007 to 2017 — the national figure rose by 3 percent.

Our ruling

Romano wrote that “adjusting for inflation, West Virginia’s median household income has not grown in a decade.” West Virginia’s inflation-adjusted median income has dropped 9 percent in the last decade, even as the national figure has risen by 3 percent. We rate his statement True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Does West Virginia Spend Half its Budget on K-12 Education?

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Tyler Consolidated High School social studies teacher Susan Gilbert. Photo: Ashton Marra/100 Days in Appalachia

Is almost half of West Virginia’s state budget devoted to K-12 education? That’s what West Virginia state Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, a Democrat, said.

“Fifty percent of our (West Virginia) budget was for lower education,” Prezioso said during a panel discussion at West Virginia University on Nov. 29, 2018.

We looked at the most recent budget report released by the state to determine whether Prezioso was accurate.

According to the most recent West Virginia executive budget document, the state spent $1.919 billion on “education” in fiscal year 2017, the most recent year for which actual expenditures are currently available. (This category does not include university spending. Expenditures for “higher education” totaled $392.9 million.)

Total expenditures for fiscal year 2017 were about $4.2 billion. That means K-12 education accounted for about 46 percent of the budget.

As for the recommendations for fiscal year 2019, education spending would account for 44.26 percent of overall spending.

After the panel, PolitiFact West Virginia asked Prezioso to clarify what he had meant, and he said that the 50 percent figure was an approximation.

Our ruling  

At the panel, Prezioso said that “50 percent of our (West Virginia) budget was for lower education.”

We found that it was 46 percent for 2017 and a recommended 44 percent for 2019. Prezioso was off by a few percentage points, but he was in the ballpark, so we rate his statement Mostly True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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