Fact Check | GOP clip of Finkenauer comment misleading

Abby Finkenauer said the Build Back Better bill is constantly changing, but she went on to name several provisions and where she stands on them.

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Nina Baker, PolitiFact Iowa Reporter


PolitiFact Iowa is a project of The Daily Iowan’s Ethics & Politics Initiative and PolitiFact to help you find the truth in politics.


Edited by Lyle Muller and Caleb McCullough

If your time is short:

  • The Iowa GOP issued a press release on Monday, Jan. 24, criticizing Democratic Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer for her response to a TV new anchor’s question about Build Back Better. 
  • “Well heck, I don’t even know what’s in it…,” the press release quoted Finkenauer as saying and the party’s communications director tweeted a clip of her saying it.
  • The press release and video clip do not include the rest of her comment, when she says the bill’s contents aren’t final and identifies what she would support.

By Nina Baker

The Republican Party of Iowa wrote in a press release on Monday, Jan. 24 that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer said, “Well heck, I don’t even know what’s in it . . .” when asked if she supports President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.

“While Finkenauer botched her answer, Iowa Democrat candidates Liz Mathis and Christina Bohannan have yet to say whether or not they support Biden’s legislation.

“It shouldn’t surprise Iowans that Finkenauer doesn’t know what’s in the bill even though she supports it. She is saying the quiet part out loud – she will be a rubber stamp for Joe Biden’s agenda,” Republican Party of Iowa Communications Director Kollin Crompton is quoted as saying in the news release. “Iowans deserve to know if Bohannan and Mathis stand with their party’s leaders on this disastrous legislation.”

Additionally, a tweet by Crompton showed a video of Finkenauer that is clipped immediately after the quote distributed in the press release. 

“@Abby4Iowa when asked about her support on BBB: “Well heck, I don’t even know what’s in it.” #IASen,” Crompton tweeted with the video clip.

We looked at the full video to see what else she said. In it, Finkenauer is speaking on 4 the Record, a news show on the Rock Island, Ill-Quad Cities television station WHBF in response to a question by anchor Jim Niedelman. He asked whether she supports The Build Back Better plan, noting that the plan’s price tag has changed over the past several months and does not have full Senate support.

Finkenauer says, “Well heck, I don’t even know what’s in it at this point, they keep going back and forth. I will say, look, I am not for giving tax breaks to folks in California or New York, but I am for making sure that 3- and 4-year-olds have universal preschool in this country.”

She also said she supports the plan expanding universal, publicly-funded pre-K education but not expanding state and local (SALT) tax deductions. 

Finkenauer is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in the 2022 general election. She served as U.S. representative for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District from 2019 to 2021. Michael Franken of Sioux City, Glenn Hurst of Minden and Bob Krause of Burlington also are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Bohannan and Mathis are seeking Democratic nominations for U.S. House seats from Iowa.

“This video was not edited in any way,” Crompton wrote in an email. “Finkenauer said what she said, she doesn’t know what is in Biden’s Build Back Broke bill. Just because she is embarrassed of her poor response, doesn’t mean she didn’t say it.”

Finkenauer’s campaign said she has not announced support for this Build Back Better plan because what’s in it isn’t clear. Campaign advisor Megan Simpson wrote in an email provided to PolitiFact Iowa by the Finkenauer campaign:

“Abby Finkenauer has been very clear about what she supports, and it’s all about lowering costs for Iowa families. She’s said time and time again that she supports allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies to lower costs, that Medicare benefits should be expanded to cover dental, vision, and hearing, and that paid family and medical leave, universal preschool, and accessible, affordable, and high-quality child care should be guaranteed for every Iowa family.”

Our ruling

The Iowa Republican Party said in a press release and a tweet that Abby Finkenauer, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat did not know what was in President Biden’s proposed Build Back Better plan. 

Finkenauer said in a television interview she didn’t know what was in the plan because it is changing. She then stated things she’d like the bill to accomplish. 

The Republican Party’s press release and Crompton’s tweet eliminated the full context of Finkenauer’s statement when it had the complete statement. Some truth exists when saying Finkenauer doesn’t know what’s in the bill but critical facts, such as the bill is in flux and Finkenauer has a wish list for it, are missing in the press release and tweet. We rate this claim Mostly False.

Editor’s note: Crompton did not respond to PolitiFact’s inquiry at the time of publishing. The article has updated with a statement he provided after publishing.

Our Sources

Kollin Crompton tweet, Jan. 24, 2022

Iowa GOP press release, Jan. 24, 2022

Phone call with Republican Party of Iowa, Jan. 27, 2022

WHBF television interview, “Finkenauer OK with some, but not all, of Build Back Better plan,” Jan. 23, 2022

Des Moines Register, “Iowa election 2022: An early look at candidates for U.S. Senate, House races,” by Brianne Pfannenstiel, Jan. 20, 2022

TaxFoundation.org,State and Local Tax Deduction

The Center for Law and Social Policy, “Executive Summary: Understanding the Child Care and Pre-K Provisions in the Build Back Better Act,” Dec. 2, 2021

Daily Beast, “One Big Thing Dem Candidates Are Avoiding: Biden’s Agenda,” by Sam Brody, Jan. 11, 2022

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