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Pants on fire: The 5 biggest GOP whoppers this election cycle

With the midterm elections fast approaching, there are evermore exaggerations, distortions, and outright lies on the campaign trail.
House speaker Thom Tillis applauds guests in the gallery from the House floor during the opening session of the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C., May 14, 2014. (Photo by AP)
House speaker Thom Tillis applauds guests in the gallery from the House floor during the opening session of the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C., May 14, 2014.

The midterm elections are just 10 days away and candidates are stepping up their ground games – increasing public appearances, churning out negative ads, making last-minute fundraising appeals and participating in final debates against their opponents.

There's a lot at stake. The GOP is expected to remain comfortably in control of the House of Representatives and could even pick up a few seats, but the battle for the Democratic-held Senate is still very much up in the air.

And as things heat up, there are evermore exaggerations, distortions, and outright lies on the campaign trail. We received input from the community on what you think are the biggest GOP whoppers of the election cycle. Here’s a look:

ISIS working with Mexican drug cartels

Republican Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, suggested earlier this month that ISIS extremists are collaborating with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate America’s southern border.

“It’s not just an immigration problem. We now know that it’s a security problem. Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism,” said Cotton at a tele-town hall meeting. He added, “They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas."

U.S. officials and counter-terrorism experts have said multiple times that there is no evidence that terrorist groups like ISIS are attempting to infiltrate the U.S. through the nation’s southern border. 

Ebola-infected people are going to walk across the border

Thom Tillis, the Republican candidate for Senate in North Carolina, also recently tied the Ebola crisis to border security. During a debate, the Republican insisted his opponent, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, had failed the state’s residents by not securing the border. “We’ve got an Ebola outbreak. We have bad actors that can come across the border. We need to seal the border and secure it.”

Health experts have said it’s highly unlikely that Ebola could come across the U.S.-Mexico border, pointing to the fact that there have been no cases in Central America. And there has been no evidence that anyone with Ebola has tried or is planning to cross the border.

President Obama hijacked the farm bill and turned it into a food stamp bill

Another whopper from Rep. Cotton. The Republican has come under fire from conservatives for voting against the final version of the farm bill, which is economically vital in his state of Arkansas. In an ad, he points his finger at Obama, arguing the president “hijacked” the bill and “turned it into a food stamp bill.”

Several fact-checkers have called out Cotton for those comments, noting that food-stamp funding has been part of every farm bill since the 1970s -- when Obama was still a pre-teen. Cotton did support an initial farm bill that didn’t include nutrition subsidies but ultimately rejected the final version that combined farm and food policies.

Politfact rated Cotton’s claim as “pants on fire” and said it was an example of “hijacking history in Arkansas.”

Sen. Landrieu voted to fund benefits for illegal immigrants ahead of vets

In a Senate campaign ad, Louisiana Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy – who is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu -- charges that his opponent chose benefits for illegal immigrants over veterans. But fact-checkers say she did no such thing.

A bit of background: A bipartisan budget passed in the Senate in December 2013 that reversed some of the spending cuts known as the sequester. It included a provision to lower the cost-of-living adjustments for some military retirees. Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama tried to reopen the amendment process so he could introduce a measure to remove the cuts in military pensions by eliminating a loophole that he argued allowed illegal immigrants to get child tax credits.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray – who spearheaded the budget deal – argued that reopening the amendment process late in the game would mess up the entire bipartisan deal so she and all the Senate Democrats (which includes Landrieu) voted against the measure, which ultimately failed.

Fact-checkers skewered Cassidy’s claim. Politifact argued Cassidy presented “the false dichotomy that Landrieu had a choice between funding undocumented immigrants and veterans in the budget agreement. That amendment never actually came up for a vote.” agreed, saying the ad sets up a “false choice.”

Michelle Nunn funded groups linked to terrorists

Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn are in a heated race for retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat in Georgia. Perdue ran ads accusing his opponent of having funded organizations linked to terrorists when she helped run Points of Light, a volunteer group founded by former President George H.W. Bush.

The accusation stemmed from an internal Nunn campaign memo that became public. It noted Points of Light activity could be twisted into a GOP attack. The point of the memo was to prepare “pushback” material in the event that the GOP did attack on particular issues. At the center of the controversy was an anticipated attack on “service awards to inmates, terrorists” during Nunn’s time at Points of Light.

Here are the facts: Nunn started working for Points of Light in 2007. Before that, in 2003, Mission Fish – a business that Points of Light owned until 2012 – hammered out a deal with eBay Inc., to validate charities and help collect donations from EBay users for tens of thousands of charities.

One of the 20,000 charities MissionFish dealt with was Islamic Relief USA, a subsidiary of Islamic Relief Worldwide. IRW has come under scrutiny, however, and the Israeli government has claimed IRW is linked to Hamas.

The idea that Nunn was behind personally funding the charity is ludicrous. Even Neil Bush, the chairman of Points of Light and son of George H.W. Bush called the ad “shameful” and “ridiculous.” A fact-checker for The Washington Post called the claim “bogus” and gave it a rating of “four Pinocchios,” the equivalent of being an all-out whopper. Politifact said the ad “plainly misconstrues what the Nunn internal memos said and why,” rating it “pants on fire.”

We want to hear from you! For the next piece in this series, tell us: which incumbents do you think are least likely to return? Leave a comment on this post and let us know!