PolitiFact VA: National Republican group muddles Spanberger’s record on police funding
Speaker: National Republican Congressional Committee
Statement: “Abigail Spanberger is raking in thousands from defund the police groups because she supports defunding the police.”
Date: July 18
Setting: News release
Repeating a successful strategy from 2020, the National Republican Campaign Committee is accusing Democratic congressional candidates this year of seeking to defund police departments.
Among its targets is Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who has been one of the most outspoken Democratic critics of the “Defund the Police” movement that was rekindled after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The movement calls for reducing funds going to police forces and investing them in community resources, such as social services, youth services and public housing.
The NRCC said Spanberger has been dishonest on the issue and the proof is that she accepted a $3,000 contribution in June from Planned Parenthood, a women’s health organization that supports defunding the police.
“Abigail Spanberger is raking in thousands from defund the police groups because she supports defunding the police,” the NRCC blogged on July 18.
We fact checked the NRCC’s claim that Spanberger backs defunding police and found it contrived. We emailed the NRCC, and a spokesperson declined to answer our questions.
Spanberger is in a competitive race this fall against Republican Yesli Vega, a Prince William County supervisor and an auxiliary deputy in the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office. They’re running in the recently redrawn 7th Congressional District that now contains population centers in Fredericksburg and Southern Prince William County.
Spanberger, an advocate of abortion rights, has received $5,000 in campaign contributions this election cycle from Planned Parenthood’s PAC — $2,000 in September 2021 and $3,000 in June.
Planned Parenthood on defunding police
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the organization’s lobbying arm, issued a statement endorsing the defund movement in July 2020. “Instead of investing in systems that brutalize Black communities, we demand that elected officials prioritize public-health approaches that strengthen Black communities,” the group wrote.
The fund does not, however, mention defunding police on a nine-item list of “issues we’re fighting for” now posted on its website. Those items pertain to abortion rights, birth control and other matters centered around reproductive health care.
The fund also scores members of Congress on how they voted on “key legislation related to sexual and reproductive health rights.” None of the votes listed since 2018, when Spanberger first ran for Congress, concern police funding. Members who score 100% on the scorecard, such as Spanberger, are eligible to receive donations from Planned Parenthood’s PAC, according to Khadijah Davis, press secretary to the president of Planned Parenthood.
Jaqueline Ayers, senior vice president of the fund, sent us a statement calling Spanberger “a champion for sexual and reproductive rights.”
Spanberger, a former CIA agent, distanced herself from the defund movement during her 2020 campaign. She stressed that she’d supported appropriation bills that maintained or increased federal spending on local police. She also noted that she had voted for an unsuccessful bill that would have limited legal protections for police in cases of misconduct and banned use of chokeholds by them.
Democrats lost seats in the U.S. House in the 2020 elections. Days afterward, Spanberger made national headlines by blaming some of the poor performance on Democrats’ use of defund rhetoric, which became fodder for Republicans. She said Democrats should avoid using the phrase “defund the police” in the future and explain their positions on public safety, point by point.
This year, Spanberger is chief co-sponsor of a bill that would nearly triple funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services’ grant program for rural police departments, bringing its annual appropriation to $1 billion. She has endorsed President Joe Biden’s recently announced “Safer America” proposal that would provide $13.5 billion in new grants during the next five years to help localities hire and train 100,000 additional police officers. Spanberger called the proposal “long overdue.”
In a January interview with TV host Dan Abrams, Spanberger said police departments are overstressed. “It comes down to an issue of funding the police, so that they can bring their best selves, they can ensure they have the full complement of officers necessary to really serve, ideally, the communities in which they live,” she said.
The NRCC has linked 27 Democratic candidates this year to the defund police movement based on various third-party contributions they’ve accepted.
The NRCC said, “Abigail Spanberger is raking in thousands from defund the police groups because she supports defunding the police.”
Here’s the Republican group’s logic: The lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood, which said in 2020 that it supports defunding the police among many other policy goals, has given Spanberger’s campaign $5,000. Therefore, Spanberger supports defunding police.
What the NRCC ignores is that Planned Parenthood’s publicly-posted scorecard tracking key votes in Congress does not include defunding the police. Planned Parenthood officials said their organization backs Spanberger because she has consistently voted for bills that would expand access to abortion and reproductive health care.
Moreover, the NRCC ignores that Spanberger has been a leading Democratic critic of the defund movement and has supported a number of bills and proposals that would substantially increase federal funding for local police departments.
We rate the NRCC’s claim False.
National Republican Campaign Committee, “Spanberger funded by defund the police group,” July 18, 2022
Email from Camille Gallo, deputy director of media affairs and strategic communications for the National Republican Congressional Committee
Email from Justin Chermol, press secretary, Abigail Spanberger for Congress, July 28, 2022
Email from Khadijah Davis, press secretary to the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Aug. 2, 2022
Statement from Jaqueline Ayers, senior vice president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Planned Parenthood, “Defunding the Police: What it means and Why Planned Parenthood Supports It,” July 9, 2020
Planned Parenthood, “Tips to fight systematic racism and reduce health risks while protesting,” accessed July 27, 2022
Planned Parenthood, Congressional Scorecard, accessed Aug. 2, 2022
Planned Parenthood, Issues, accessed July 27-28, 2022
Spanberger, “Morning Joe” interview, Nov. 9, 2020
Spanberger, interview on “Dan Abrams Live,” Jan. 21, 2022
Spanberger, comments in 7th Congressional District debate, Oct. 20, 2020 (33:30 mark)
Federal Election Commission, Spanberger for Congress receipts, accessed July 27 2021
The Washington Post, “House passes broad police reform legislation in wake of George Floyd’s killing,” June 25, 2020
The Washington Post, “Spanberger criticizes Democrats' strategy in caucus call,” Nov. 5, 2020
UPI, “White House unveils $37 billion Safer America Plan to improve police hires, fight crime,” July 21, 2022
Open Secrets, Planned Parenthood PAC’s contributions to federal candidates 2021-22, accessed July 28, 2022
Courage to Change PAC, pledge signers, accessed July 28, 2022
NRCC, “Did Spanberger agreed to defund the police for campaign cash?” Feb. 25, 2022
PolitiFact, “Zach Nunn falsely claims Cindy Axne sought to defund police,” July 20, 2022
The White House, “Fact Sheet: President Biden’s Safer America Plan,” July 21, 2022