A TV ad from a Republican group accuses the Democratic candidates in Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections of having “radically dangerous” ideas on the criminal justice system and the environment. But there’s more to their positions than what the ad suggests.
- The ad says the Rev. Raphael Warnock “supports cashless bail for criminals,” which “puts the most violent right back into our neighborhoods.” Warnock’s campaign has said that he “supports ending cash bail for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders, not an all out ban on cash bail.”
- The ad also misleadingly says Jon Ossoff “praised” the Green New Deal, a proposal that Ossoff has repeatedly said that he does not support.
The ad was released Dec. 2 by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is supporting Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the upcoming Jan. 5 elections. Warnock is challenging Loeffler for her seat, and Ossoff is going up against Perdue for his.
The outcome of the elections will determine which political party controls the Senate.
Warnock on cash bail
The ad claims Warnock is “radically dangerous” because he “supports cashless bail for criminals. That puts the most violent right back into our neighborhoods.” But that’s misleading.
It’s true that Warnock has been critical of the cash bail system, which requires individuals charged with committing crimes to pay a fee in order to leave jail while their case works its way through the court system. If the person cannot afford to pay the bail amount set by a judge, they are often detained until their case is resolved.
Warnock has argued that cash bail laws contribute to the mass incarceration of poor people, who may not even go on to be convicted. However, his campaign told us he doesn’t support a complete ban on cash bail.
“Reverend Warnock supports ending cash bail for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders, not an all out ban on cash bail as this suggests,” the campaign emphasized in an email.
In 2018, for example, Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, supported an ordinance approved by the Atlanta City Council that eliminated the requirement for individuals charged with committing certain low-level crimes to pay a cash bond to secure their pretrial release from custody. In a press release, the office of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who signed the ordinance into law, explained that the measure “maintains the ability to impose bail and other conditions for certain offenders including violent offenders, repeat offenders, and offenders who fail to appear for their initial hearing.”
During the public comments portion of a February 2018 meeting of the Atlanta City Council, Warnock spoke in favor of the ordinance (at 1:38:35 in the video).
“A letter went out to the council members from an attorney representing the bondsman association reminding them that this [cash bail] system is as old as the country, as if that supports the rightness of the situation,” Warnock said. “Slavery is as old as this country, and it is as wrong as it is old. And so I stand to say that we ought to support this new ordinance. We ought to end money bail. We ought to end wealth-based detention.”
To support the ad’s claim about Warnock, the NRSC pointed to those remarks, as well as a tweet Warnock sent in October that said: “No one should be stuck in jail just because they can’t afford cash bail. Poverty is not a crime, we must end cash bail.”
But while Warnock did say “end money” or “cash bail,” his campaign has clarified that his support for changing cash bail requirements is more limited than a full on ban. He specifically supports ending the practice for those accused of nonviolent crimes.
Ossoff does not support Green New Deal
Making its case that Ossoff is a “radical liberal,” the NRSC ad misleadingly says Ossoff “praised” the Green New Deal. Ossoff praised one of the main ideas in the Green New Deal — “linking environmental policy and infrastructure policy” — but he has said that he does not support the resolution.
According to the NRSC ad’s narrator, “Ossoff praised radical socialist AOC’s Green New Deal, a radically bad deal for Georgia families. It’d kill local jobs, astronomically raise Georgia taxes.”
In the “speed round” portion of a November “Axios on HBO” interview about policies, Ossoff was asked directly, “Do you support the Green New Deal?” “No,” Ossoff replied succinctly. Ossoff also answered “no” indicating that he did not support Medicare for All, defunding police, abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or expanding the Supreme Court.
In an interview in August, Ossoff pushed back against a different ad from the NRSC during the general election that similarly accused him of praising the Green New Deal.
“They’re claiming that I support the Green New Deal. I do not,” Ossoff told the Gwinnett Daily Post.
The NRSC points to comments Ossoff made to the New York Times in September 2019: “Now on the Green New Deal, I commend Senator Edward Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for linking environmental policy and infrastructure policy. However, do I believe that the critical path to fighting climate change requires the abolition of the private health insurance market? No, I do not. And I’ll debate that all day, while still recognizing the value and honoring the political contribution of folks who maybe see it a little bit differently.”
The resolutions introduced by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey talk about “providing all people of the United States with … high-quality health care.” Although the resolutions do not mention how that would be achieved, some have taken that to mean Medicare for All, which both Markey and Ocasio-Cortez support.
Ossoff’s energy plan does, however, mirror some of the environmental goals of the Green New Deal.
“We can meet our energy needs without destroying the environment — but only by rapidly transitioning to clean energy sources, dramatically reducing carbon emissions, and increasing energy efficiency,” Ossoff states on the policy page of his campaign website. “That’s why I’ll support a historic infrastructure plan that includes massive investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, and environmental protection.”
The Green New Deal also talks about dramatically decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and investing “in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
In addition to its environmental agenda, the Green New Deal lays out priorities such as creating high-paying jobs and protecting vulnerable communities. Some Republicans have criticized those provisions — Perdue, for example, called the Green New Deal a “socialist wish list.” Some Republican backlash referred to documents Ocasio-Cortez’s staff released but later described as early drafts and removed from her website. President Donald Trump, for example, suggested on Feb. 9 in a tweet that the plan would “permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military.” But as we have written, the Green New Deal doesn’t call for any of these prohibitions.
It’s misleading to claim Ossoff “praised” a plan when he applauded one aspect of it but made clear he’s against the full proposal.
As for the cost of the Green New Deal — the NRSC ad says it would “astronomically raise Georgia taxes” — some conservative and libertarian think tanks have attached a high cost to taxpayers to implement the Green New Deal. But experts have told us the Green New Deal is too vague at this point to estimate its cost.