Fact check: What's true in Indiana 5th District ads about Victoria Spartz, Christina Hale

Kaitlin Lange
Indianapolis Star

Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story did not accurately describe Christina Hale's property tax appeal. Hale and her husand argued that they should not have to pay the 2007 property taxes on a property they bought on April 30, 2008, and that the 2007 assessed value of the subject property was incorrect. They had to pay the 2007 taxes, but were successful in correcting the assessed value of the property and were refunded.

Less than a month out from Election Day and both Indiana's 5th Congressional District major party candidates have gone negative — and so have the groups that support them.  

The hostility isn't surprising: Republican Victoria Spartz and Democrat Christina Hale are locked in a tight race to replace retiring Republican Congresswoman Susan Brooks in a district known for its ranks of Republicans. The candidates face Libertarian Ken Tucker.  

Just last week Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, a political analysis group, switched the district from "likely Republican" to a "toss up," becoming the third major ratings agency to do so. 

According to The Center for Responsive Politics, outside groups have spent $1.59 million on attack ads against Hale and $1.25 million on attack ads against Spartz. 

More:Where 5th District candidate Christina Hale stands on the issues

More:Where 5th District candidate Victoria Spartz stands on the issues

More:Where 5th District candidate Ken Tucker stands on the issues

There's no escaping the ads on TV or the flyers in mailboxes, so IndyStar fact checked some of the claims in anti-Spartz and anti-Hale ads.

Attacks against Hale

Claim: Hale's Congressional campaign is backed by hardcore left-wing groups that want to 'defund the police.'

From: Club for Growth Action mailer. Club for Growth is a conservative group that has endorsed Spartz.

The facts: Hale is backed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which has tweeted its support to "defund the police," by divesting from police and investing in Black communities.

Hale though personally has said she does not support defunding the police. 

"I do not believe that we should take critical resources or funding away from law enforcement," Hale told IndyStar. "But we do need to acknowledge that systemic racism does exist within our criminal justice system. And we need to take substantive measures to address those challenges and ensure that everyone in this country feels safe when interacting with the police."

She also did attend a Black Lives Matter protest, according to an interview with BELatina.

Claim: Hale voted at least 11 times for higher taxes and fees.

From: Club for Growth Action ad, "Guess Who." 

The facts: Of the 11 cases Club For Growth referred to in the ad, Hale voted for bills that called for more fees six times and voted against legislation that would cut taxes four times. Hale actually voted against the final bill Club For Growth referenced.

She voted for legislation that allowed governments to charge a $3 convenience fee for credit card usage, permitted some communities to raise taxes to help pay for public transit if approved using a referendum and enabled sheriffs to charge $12 more for certain records, among other legislation. 

5th Congressional District candidate, Christina Hale is interviewed at the IndyStar, Friday, July 31, 2020.

Much like her other Democratic colleagues, Hale voted against a massive budget bill in 2013 that among other things included an income tax cut check and expedited the repeal of the inheritance tax and a separate bill that phased in a lowering of the corporate tax rate. 

Claim: Hale took thousands from big telecom companies and wrote legislation letting them raise rates and build cell towers wherever they want.

From:Spartz for Congress ad, "Sold Out."

The facts: According to Followthemoney.org, Hale received $3,000 from AT&T and an additional $5,500 from other groups in the 2014 and 2016 election. AT&T contributed to 90 other Indiana House campaigns in 2014, so Hale was not an anomaly at the Statehouse.

The ad appears to be referencing 2015 House Enrolled Act 1318, which Hale co-authored. That piece of legislation established a uniform statewide procedure for the construction of wireless communication service structures.

There was no mention of 5G in the legislation or in the final debate on the House floor, plus 5G was rolled out years later. 5G advocates instead attribute most of the success of 5G in Indiana to 2017 Senate Bill 213 and 2018 House Bill 1050, both of which passed after Hale was no longer in the Statehouse. 

Claim: Hale's Education policies hurt minority and low-income children.

From: Club for Growth Action mailer.

The facts: The mailer is referencing Hale's votes against legislation that expanded charter schools when she served in the Statehouse. 

A mailer from Club for Growth Action

There's disagreement over whether charter schools hurt or help marginalized students. Opponents argue that because money used for charter schools is siphoned away from public schools, that can hurt the remaining public school students. In Indiana, money follows the students. 

An Indiana School Board of Education evaluation of the 2016-2017 school year found that charter schools enroll a greater percentage of low-income and minority students than similar public schools and a greater percentage of charter schools received A’s, and fewer receive D’s and F’s compared to similar public schools when it came to performance. 

The same report found that virtual charter schools performed worse over all than public schools. Every virtual charter school received an F grade in 2016 and 2017. 

Claim: Hale supports a public option to radically expand government-run health care that will eventually lead to single-payer socialized medicine.

From: Club for Growth Action mailer.

The facts: Hale does not support a Medicare for All system. Here's what she told IndyStar in March in the interview referenced by the mailer. 

"While I don’t support a Medicare for All system, I strongly believe that people who don’t have insurance, or aren’t satisfied with their insurance, should have a public insurance option so they can be covered and access affordable care."

Claim: Hale tried to dodge her property taxes, using a high-priced lawyer to try to weasel out of thousands.

From: National Republican Congressional Committee ad, "Tried to."

The facts: According to an Indiana Board of Tax Review document, Hale and her husband did try to contest certain property tax records.

They argued that they should not have to pay the 2007 property taxes on a property they bought on April 30, 2008, and that the 2007 assessed value of the subject property was incorrect. They still had to pay the 2007 taxes, but were successful in correcting the assessed value of the property and were refunded based on the corrected amount.

The "high-priced lawyer" the NRCC referenced was Hale's own husband, who was a petitioner on the case because he owned the property with Hale.

Claim: Hale's radical views make dying more expensive.

From: Club for Growth Action mailer.

The facts: The mailer is referencing her vote against the massive 2013 budget bill that among other things, expedited the repeal of the inheritance tax, otherwise known as the "death tax."

Attacks against Spartz

Claim: Spartz has a history of conflict of interests, especially when it could have benefited her family.

From:Democratic Congressional Campaign Committeead, "Caught".

The facts: This ad appears to only reference one example

Earlier this year, Spartz, who is a state senator, wrote a bill that removes state oversight of certain wetlands near what are called regulated drains.

Republican candidate for Indiana's 5th Congressional District Victoria Spartz talks with women at a fundraiser coffee in Carmel, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. She removed her  mask when the people at the outdoor fundraiser were socially distanced.

In 2007, Spartz's family had planned a multi-million project to develop a Super Target in Noblesville. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management halted the project after the family bulldozed and filled in wetlands near a county-regulated drain on the property, because they did not obtain state and federal permissions. Eventually the Spartz family resolved the situation, but later lost the land in a foreclosure as the economy soured. 

Spartz did not disclose her family ties to the issue. She told IndyStar that the project did not factor into her decision to file the bill. 

Claim: Spartz doesn't believe federal programs like Medicare should exist.

From:Hoosiers for Hale ad, "Dangerous." 

The facts: Spartz emphasized that she wants to "move more flexibility to the states" during a primary debate earlier this year, but she didn't suggest ditching Medicare. She also is clear on her stance that Medicare for All isn't the answer.

"A government monopoly in health care will be fatal to innovation and quality of health care," she told IndyStar. "We should also provide more flexibility within Medicaid and Medicare to obtain better options."

Claim: Spartz doesn't support protections for people with preexisting conditions.

From: Hoosiers for Hale ad, "Dangerous." 

The facts: Because of the Affordable Care Act, which Spartz disagrees with, health insurance companies cannot refuse coverage or charge people more just because they have a pre-existing condition. However, that's only one small aspect of the Obama-era legislation.

Spartz told IndyStar that "government will still need to be involved with high-risk pools to provide affordable and quality options for people with pre-existing conditions." However, she has also voted against an amendment as a state senator requiring short term insurance plans to cover preexisting conditions. The majority of her colleagues voted for it. 

Claim: Spartz has loaned herself over a million dollars so far but refused to answer simple questions about where that money came from.

From: DCCC ad, "More Secrets."

The facts: Spartz has loaned her campaign at least $1.07 million, according to finance data.

The ad is referencing questions from the Importantville newsletter and other Republican primary candidates on how she could afford to finance her campaign, based on her candidate financial disclosure form. 

Carl Brizzi, one of her opponents in the primary, sent a letter to every 5th District county party chair, warning them that what he saw was a risky candidate.

It is not clear where Spartz got or was holding her money based on that form, because Spartz didn’t list any bank accounts. Candidates are required to disclose interest-bearing bank accounts if they have accounts that exceed a collective $5,000.

Tim Edson, a spokesman for her campaign, told IndyStar in May that Spartz has bank accounts but not interest-bearing bank accounts.

"Victoria and her husband invest, farm, and develop land in Hamilton County, one of the fastest growing counties in the country," Edson said in an email to IndyStar in late May, well after the primary attacks ads had started. "The $750,000 loan is a combination of income earned by 3 partnerships disclosed on Victoria’s financial disclosure."

Did we miss any ads that need a fact check? Let us know.

Contact IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270 or Kaitlin.Lange@IndyStar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.