President Obama’s first 2012 campaign ad misleads on ethics, “clean-energy” jobs and U.S. dependence on oil imports.

•The spot uses outdated quotes from groups that said his record on ethics is “unprecedented” and that he “kept a promise to toughen ethics rules.” Those same groups said later that he “has let down millions of Americans who accepted his word” and rated his promise as “broken.”

•The 30-second TV spot also trumpets a claim of “2.7 million jobs” in “America’s clean-energy industry.” That mostly counts jobs put in place long before Obama took office.

•Finally, it boasts that U.S. dependence on foreign oil has declined to below 50 percent, as a net share of total demand, for the first time in more than a decade. That’s true, and increasing U.S. oil production is a factor (despite Republican criticisms that Obama is anti-drilling). But economists say the chief factor is reduced oil consumption, brought on by the recent economic recession.


The ad, released Jan. 19, is titled “Unprecedented.” The Obama campaign reports that the 30-second ad is running in Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The ad brazenly quotes our fact-checking colleagues at PolitiFact saying that President Barack Obama “kept his promise to toughen ethics rules.” But based on events since that initial finding, PolitiFact has updated its ruling on Obama’s promise to toughen rules against a revolving door for lobbyists, and the site now rates it as a Promise Broken.

That initial PolitiFact assessment cited in the Obama 2012 ad came a day after Obama was sworn in as president, and after Obama had issued an executive order that required every executive agency appointee to sign an ethics pledge that bans gifts from lobbyists, restricted former lobbyists from participating in any matters on which they had previously lobbied, prohibited them from serving in agencies they had lobbied within the previous two years, and prohibited employees from lobbying the Obama administration after they leave.

Based on that order, PolitiFact marked two campaign promises as kept: one involving tougher rules against a revolving door for lobbyists and former officials, and another banning lobbyist gifts to executive employees.

The promise banning lobbyist gifts remains a Promise Kept. But two days after rating the promise to toughen rules against a revolving door for lobbyists and former officials as “kept,” PolitiFact noted that the order included a waiver clause. And, in fact, the administration had already sought two waivers for appointees, including one for William J. Lynn III, a former lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon, who was tapped to be deputy secretary of defense. The promise was downgraded to “Compromise.” It turned out that two other officials received waivers, and that other former lobbyists were simply recused from discussions related to their former lobbying interests. On March 17, 2009, two months after its initial finding, PolitiFact rated it a Promise Broken.

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