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Fact Check: Republican attack ad on Senate Candidate Greenfield true but lacks context

Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 6:48 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A TV ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee attacks the business record of Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield.

Greenfield, a Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent Senator Joni Ernst this November. An early Des Moines Register Poll shows Greenfield with a slight lead.

Claim: “Greenfield’s failed home building business ran up millions in debt”

Analysis: The ad is talking about Rottlund Homes, which was a Minneapolis-based home building company. Greenfield, according to documents from the Minnesota Secretary of State, was listed at the Chief Executive Officer of the company’s Iowa division. Greenfield said she was the division president on her LinkedIn page for a period of four years. Rottlund went bankrupt in 2011 and faced lawsuits claiming the company owed at least $29 million. However, the article from Builder Magazine cited in the ad says it’s Des Moines, Iowa, the operation was sold before it went out of business.

The claims here are true but there is context missing. This happened during the Great Recession when homebuilders nationwide were struggling, which is why this gets a B.

Claim: Theresa Greenfield’s business was repeatedly sued by homeowners and banks for Fraud, Shoddywork, and not making payments.

Analysis: Rottlund Homes was sued around 60 different times since 1995, but Greenfield didn’t join the company until 2005, according to her LinkedIn page. Rottlund Homes in Iowa was only sued about 10 times since she became the division president in December 2007. Some of those lawsuits were liens’ placed for work performed. I9 found another lawsuit from a homeowners association against Rottlund Homes for defective work resulting in damages and breach of contract. In that specific case, a judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff against the defendant for $5,000.

How much responsibility fell on Greenfield for those lawsuits is debatable but the claim is accurate and gets an A.

Claim: Eventually, Greenfield’s business folded.

Analysis: As noted above, Rottlund went bankrupt in 2011. Greenfield joined Colby Interests, a development company in Windsor Heights, the following year. While also true, this claim again lacks the context of the economy at the time, so this claim gets a B.

Claim: Greenfield’s company didn’t pay its bills

Analysis: As mentioned above, Rottlund Homes faced several liens, according to court records, and faced several lawsuits when it went bankrupt. This claim gets an A.

Conclusion: The claims in this ad are accurate – the company Greenfield ran was sued many times and eventually went bankrupt facing a mountain of debt. However, the ad lacks two important pieces of context. It’s not uncommon for construction companies to face many lawsuits for disputes on work or costs. The ad also leaves out that the company racked up its debt during the great recession and went bankrupt as the home building industry was still struggling nationwide.

That lack of context is why the ad gets a B.

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