FACT CHECK: Sarah Palin claims Arizona congressional candidate is a big government 'champion'

Posted at 6:10 PM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 22:20:19-04

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin expressed her discontent for Republicans in name only, or RINOs, while talking about Arizona’s District 4 congressional race.

The Aug. 30 Republican primary is a two-man contest between three-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar and challenger Ray Strauss of Buckeye, whom Palin called a "malleable politician" willing to compromise.

"In other words, to sell us out, raise taxes, and spend more of your hard-earned money," Palin said in an Aug. 11 Facebook post supporting Gosar. "Dr. Gosar's opponent is actually classified by Americans for Prosperity for being a ‘Champion of Big Government' for his votes to raise taxes while on the local city council."

Palin was referring to Strauss, who served on the Buckeye City Council from June 2010 through May 2016.

We decided to truth-check her claim. 

Not for taxes

We did not hear back from Palin or Strauss, but Gosar campaign spokesman Tom Van Flein pointed us to the Americans for Prosperity's 2016 scorecard. This conservative group, which advocates for limited government, annually grades local and state politicians based on their fiscal voting record.

Their scale ranges from Hero of the Taxpayer to Hero of Big Government:

According to his most recent scorecard for calendar year 2015, AFP did give Strauss a grade of "Champion of Big Government."

But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

In June 2015, the Buckeye City Council unanimously approved a $258 million budget for fiscal year 2015-16, $73 million more than the previous fiscal year.

"The (sic) rating in calendar year 2015 was for voting for a 39 percent increase in the city’s approved budget, from $185 million in fiscal year 2015 to $258 million in fiscal year 2016," Americans for Prosperity Arizona state director Tom Jenney said.

However, Strauss -- and the rest of the council -- did not vote to increase taxes. They actually approved a lower property tax rate of $1,800 per $100,000 of accessed property value.

Despite a lower tax rate, some homeowners may still pay more in taxes if their home is worth more, but it varies.

"It’s the assessed value on any given property that dictates whether someone’s overall taxes increase or decrease," said Buckeye finance director Larry Price. "She got her years wrong or just flat out missed it."

Moreover, while Strauss did get a "Champion of Big Government" rating for calendar year 2015, from calendar year 2007 through calendar year 2015, he averaged a score of -1, or "Needs Much Improvement."

And in calendar year 2014, AFP actually gave him a "Friend of the Taxpayer" rating.

By comparison, Gosar received a perfect score from AFP, as his congressional votes coincided with the group’s position.

Our ruling

Palin said, "Dr. Gosar's opponent is actually classified by Americans for Prosperity for being a ‘Champion of Big Government' for his votes to raise taxes while on the local city council."

The opponent in question, Ray Strauss, did not vote to raise taxes that year while on the Buckeye City Council.

And while the group did give him that rating in 2015, it wasn't a lifetime rating. Palin cherry-picks one year. On average, he has a much more moderate score from AFP.

We rate her claim Half True.


For the complete fact-check, visit our news partner, PolitiFact Arizona