Zach Nunn falsely claims Cindy Axne sought to defund police

In a Breitbart interview on July 10, Zach Nunn said Cindy Axne sought to defund the police. Our research showed this claim to be false.

Zach+Nunn+falsely+claims+Cindy+Axne+sought+to+defund+police

Sam Knupp, Managing Editor

If your time is short:

  • Iowa Republican congressional candidate Zach Nunn claimed in a Breitbart interview that his Democratic incumbent opponent, Cindy Axne, has sought to defund police by taking a donation from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage to Change PAC.
  • Our research shows that Axne did not pledge defunding before or after receiving the donation.
  • Axne has a record of sponsoring and voting for bills that seek to increase police funding.

Defunding the police has been a divisive topic among Democrats during the 2022 election cycle, although the Pew Research Center reported that, as of September 2021, only 25% of respondents who identified as Democrats supported decreasing police funding.

It’s no different for elected Democrats. While progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have spoken in favor of reducing police funding and putting money into community programs for victim support and compensation funds, others, like Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey have sided with the majority of Democrats wanting police funding to either increase or stay the same.

In a July 10, 2022, Breitbart interview, Iowa state Sen. Zach Nunn, the Republican seeking his state’s third congressional district seat, said about Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne:

“My opponent, Cindy Axne, has actively sought to defund the police.” 

Nunn went on to say Axne signed a pledge to reduce police funding in order to receive money from Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage to Change political action committee.

In an interview with PolitiFact Iowa, Axne said that $5,000 Courage to Change PAC contribution to her campaign was sent without her knowledge and that she made no pledge of any kind beforehand.

“I never in my life have seen a pledge from her. And if I even had ever seen one, I would have never signed it,” Axne said.

Furthermore, Axne has sponsored multiple bills seeking to increase police funding. Such bills include the VICTIM Act, the Invest to Protect Act, and the Pathways to Policing Act — all of which were introduced after Axne received the contribution from Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage to Change PAC. The bills have not yet been voted on by the full House or Senate.

Lauren Hitt, Ocasio-Cortez’s communications director, confirmed in an email to PolitiFact Iowa that Axne did not sign a pledge before or after receiving her donation from the Ocasio-Cortez PAC.

“Only the people listed at couragetochangepac.org/distinctions completed a questionnaire, in association with their endorsement or receipt of funding. Rep. Axne is not on the list,” Hitt wrote. Our check of the website with the aid of the internet archive, Wayback Machine, shows that Axne never was listed as an endorsee.

Our research shows that while Ocasio-Cortez’s PAC includes a questionnaire, on which candidates are asked if they will push for legislation to reduce police funding, Axne received her $5,000 contribution from the PAC on March 29, 2021, without filling out a questionnaire or pledging to reduce police funding.

Meanwhile, the Pathways to Policing Act, introduced in May 2022, would give $50 million each year from fiscals 2023 thjrough 2027 to help state and local law enforcement recruit new members. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

The Invest to Protect Act was introduced in January 2022 to assist local police departments with fewer than 200 employees by providing training, enhancing recruitment, and providing officers with access to mental health therapy. The bill authorizes up to $50 million annually in fiscals 2022 through 2026. The bill also is pending in the House Judiciary Committee. 

The VICTIM Act would provide $100 million in grants annually from fiscals 2023 through 2032. The grants would be for training, hiring, and the acquisition of new data processing technology for state, tribal, and local police departments. That bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in June on a 25-14 vote.

Congressional records show that Axne also voted in favor of appropriations packages for fiscal years 2019 through 2022 that increased funding for local and federal law enforcement programs, agencies, and departments, each by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Courage to Change PAC made donations to 28 congressional candidates in March 2021 in addition to Axne. One of them was Rep. Mike Levin of California, who received a $5,000 contribution on the same day as Axne. Eric Mee, the congressman’s communications director, wrote in an email to PolitiFact Iowa that Levin didn’t make any pledge to defund the police either. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, who received $5,000 on March 30, 2021, and Rep. Tom O’Halleran of Arizona, who received a donation on March 31, 2021, also made no pledge for the contribution, their spokespersons told PolitiFact Iowa.

Lydia Hall, a spokesperson for Nunn, wrote in an email that if Axne wouldn’t have taken Courage to Change’s $5,000 if she really opposed reducing police funding. “Cindy Axne voted for legislation that defunds police and is bankrolled by some of the loudest voices in the movement to defund police,” Hall wrote to PolitiFact Iowa.

The legislation to which Hall refers includes the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which several Republicans have said effectively defunds police by forcing them to spend money on unfunded mandates instead of regular duties. The bill would not reduce police funding, but require departments to put money into training and resources and apply for grants to pay for resources.

While the bill would offer grants to state, local, and tribal police departments, Phillip L. Swagel, director of the nonpartisan U.S. Congressional Budget Office, wrote that the training and technology would cost police departments more than the $85 million allowed for unfunded mandates in 2021 under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

The bill, pending Senate action and which Axne supported in a March 2021 House vote, would require state, local, and tribal police officers to complete training on racial profiling, implicit bias, and the duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force. It also would require the creation of the National Police Misconduct Registry to compile data and collect records on police misconduct.

Our Ruling

Zach Nunn said in a Breitbart interview that Cindy Axne actively sought to defund the police, saying that she signed a pledge to reduce police funding to receive money from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage to Change political action committee.

But the facts don’t back up the claim. Axne did not sign any pledge before or after receiving the donation and has voted for and cosponsored several bills that increase police funding. We rate the statement False.

Our Sources

Pew Research Center study on public opinion regarding defunding the police

Zach Nunn Breitbart interview, July 10, 2022

PolitiFact Iowa phone interview with Cindy Axne, July 15, 2022

Email exchange with Lauren Hitt, July 18, 2022

Email exchanges with Lydia Hall, July 19 and 20, 2022

George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021

U.S. House of Representatives roll call vote, for H. R. 1280 George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Phillip L. Swagel letter to Jason Smith, ranking member, U.S. House Budget Committee, March 9, 2021

Text from the Pathways to Policing Act

Text from the Invest to Protect Act

Text from the VICTIM Act

Wayback Machine home page

Wayback Machine screenshots of the Courage to Change pledge page archive as of July 19, 2022

Wayback Machine screenshots of the Courage to Change process page from February 28, 2021

Wayback Machine screenshots of the Courage to Change main page from April 16, 2021

Courage to Change questionnaire on July 16, 2022

Federal Election Commission PDF showing Courage to Change’s $5,000 donation to Cindy Axne’s campaign

Federal Election Commission, campaign finance data on the Courage to Change political action committee, March 2021 and 2021-22

Consolidated Appropriations Act 2020

Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021

Consolidated Appropriations Act 2022

The Daily Wire, “Democrats Pass Bill Critics Say Defunds Police And Reject Proposal To Condemn Calls To ‘Abolish’ Police,” by Ryan Saavedra, March 4, 2021 

Email exchange with Mike Levin spokesman Eric Mee, July 18, 2022

Email exchange with Tom O’Halleran spokeswoman Kaitlin Hooker on July 19, 2022

Email exchange with Jared Golden spokeswoman Margaret Reynolds, July 19, 2022

Federal Election Commission PDF showing Courage to Change’s $5,000 donation to Mike Levin’s campaign

Federal Election Commission PDF showing Courage to Change’s $5,000 donation to Mike Levin’s campaign

Federal Election Commission PDF showing Courage to Change’s $5,000 donation to the Committee to Elect Jared Golden

Good Morning America interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, June 10, 2020

Josh Gottheimer tweet, May 12, 2022

Iowa Field Report, “Axne Gets Hit In New NRCC Ad For Supporting Democrats’ Anti-Police Platform,” by Luke Martz, April 26, 2021

Axne, Gottheimer Letter to Leadership to bring Invest to Protect to the Floor, May 6, 2022

Defund Cities that Defund the Police Act of 2021

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995

U.S. General Services Administration, “Unfunded Mandates Reform Act” web page

Des Moines Register, “US Rep. Cindy Axne faces pushback for policing bills at West Des Moines town hall,” by Brianne Pfannenstiel, May 26, 2022

Congressional Budget Office home page

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