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Quickly, a "Lie" Becomes an "Overstatement"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Since the May release of the Environmental Working Group's update of its farm subsidy database, the media have paid a lot of attention to Tea Party candidates for Congress who paradoxically receive farm subsidies while railing against government spending. Right in the center of the discussion has been Stephen Fincher, who is running for the House of Representatives from Tennessee. We've complied this little chronology of the farm subsidy-related news coverage he's gotten.

April 1, 2010: The Washington Post outs Fincher as a farm subsidy recipient and reports on the reaction among Tea Party supporters:

These activists mistrust Fincher because he is the anointed candidate of national Republicans and because of those farm subsidies. Jim Tomasik, a leader of the Mid-South Tea Party in Cordova, Tenn., is heading perhaps the most organized effort to portray Fincher as a welfare-farmer who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from other subsidy-receiving farmers.

June 7: After being hounded for two months by both his opponent and the media about his subsidies, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that Fincher lashed out at EWG:

Fincher says the amounts in the EWG database are incorrect.

"That amount is false. It's a lie," he said Friday, explaining that he typically receives between $170,000 and $200,000 a year in subsidies. "A lot of that (subsidy) money is loans that are repaid back through the cotton program and that money doesn't actually end up in my pocket."

June 13: The Jackson Sun reports on EWG's response to Fincher's charge that the EWG data on his subsidies is a "lie."

But Fincher told the Memphis paper the nonprofit's subsidy figures were "a lie" and that a large chunk of the dollars he receives are loans that he does not pocket.

The Environmental Working Group fired back at Fincher on its website last week, saying its tallies came directly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"While Mr. Fincher may be using the taxpayer-funded subsidies to pay back loans he took out to plant or harvest his crops — it's still a subsidy," a post on the nonprofit's site says. "There are plenty of businesses out there that would love to be handed, no strings attached, a couple million bucks to pay off their loans."

June 20: The Jackson Sun followed up:

At a GOP congressional debate in downtown Jackson last week, Stephen Fincher made probably his most forceful comments about his farm subsidies, which some conservatives have docked him for because he has campaigned on major cuts to federal spending.

He said the nonprofit Environmental Working Group's tally that he has received more than $3.2 million over 10 years is an overstatement because he only pockets between $50,000 to $75,000 annually from the federal farm program. He said he plans on working to reform the program if he is elected and that he has the knowledge and will to do it.

In the space of a week, a "lie" morphed into an "overstatement." But in Fincher's defense, his hypocrisy is much less blatant than this guy's.

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