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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske July 23, 2016

Clinton wrongly says she was only one in primaries to nix middle-class tax hikes

Hillary Clinton came to Virginia recently, promising to expand early childhood education programs, make community colleges free and ensure that students can go to universities without assuming debt.

"People say to me, ‘OK, well how are you going to pay for it?’" she said during a July 14 rally at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. "Well, we’re going to go where the money is. That means we’re going to raise taxes on the wealthy and those who can afford to pay."

" ... But I’ll tell you this," she added. "I am the only candidate who ran in either primary who said, ‘I will not raise taxes on the middle class.’ And I mean that, and I won’t do it."

Clinton began making that promise last fall, saying she would not raise taxes on those earning less than $250,000 a year.

We wondered whether she was, in fact, the only candidate in the heavily populated Democratic and Republican presidential primary fields to make a no-tax-hike pledge to the middle class.

We found that 13 of the 17 GOP candidates made promises last year that were far more encompassing than Clinton’s. They vowed not to raise taxes on anyone - including the middle class.

Twelve of them last year signed no-tax pledges with Americans for Tax Reform, a fiscally conservative group founded by Grover Norquist. They promised to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses" and "any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

Last year’s 12 signers were Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, George Pataki and Rick Perry.

A 13th GOP candidate, Mike Huckabee, signed a personal oath last year to oppose all tax increases.

Two other Republican candidates had signed an Americans for Tax Reform’s no-tax pledge before last year: Lindsey Graham and Scott Walker.

So contrary to Clinton’s claim, 15 of the 17 GOP candidates had signed no-tax-hike pledges - not just the middle class but everyone.

Who were the two resisters?

•Donald Trump, the ultimate GOP nominee, who said last year he didn’t want to sign the Americans for Tax Reform pledge because he "may want to switch taxes around." The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington says that Trump’s proposals would cut federal levies on the middle one-fifth of taxpayers by 4.9 percent.

•Jeb Bush, who said he objects to written pledges.

We searched debate transcripts and a variety of websites for any specific promises by Trump or Bush to shield the middle class from tax hikes, but we came up empty.

We made similar searches for the four Democrats who opposed Clinton during the primaries. While each of them spoke about the hardships facing the middle class, we found no evidence of them specifically promising to oppose tax increases on the middle class.

We asked Clinton’s for an explanation of Clinton’s claim and got a generic response. "Hillary Clinton’s policies, including her pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class, would build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top," Josh Schwerin, a campaign spokesman, replied in an email.

Our ruling

Clinton said, "I am the only candidate who ran in either primary who said, ‘I will not raise taxes on the middle class.’"

Fifteen of the 17 Republican presidential candidates signed pledges not to raise taxes on anyone, which includes the middle class. Thirteen of those candidates signed the vow last year; the other three inked such a pledge earlier in their careers.

We rate Clinton’s claim Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

Hillary Clinton, Speech at Northern Virginia Community College, July 14, 2016.

The American Presidency Project, Democratic candidates debate, Dec. 19, 2015.

Time, "Hillary Clinton’s middle-class tax pledge divides Democrats," Nov. 25, 2015.

Americans for Tax Reform, "Federal Taxpayer Protection Pledge,"  accessed July 23, 2016.

ATR, Marco Rubio tax pledge, April 28, 2015.

ATR, Rand Paul tax pledge, April 24, 2015.

ATR, Ted Cruz tax pledge, April 24, 2015.

ATR, Rick Santorum tax pledge, June 11, 2015.

ATR, John Kasich tax pledge, Oct. 27, 2015.

ATR, Chris Christie tax pledge, Aug. 12, 2015.

ATR, Bobby Jindal tax pledge, Sept. 1, 2015.

ATR, Ben Carson tax pledge, July 8, 2015.

ATR, Jim Gilmore tax pledge, Aug. 27, 2015.

ATR, Carly Fiorina tax pledge, May 7, 2015.

ATR, George Pataki tax pledge, Nov. 14, 2015.

ATR, Rick Perry tax pledge, July 8, 2015.

Real Clear Politics, "Huckabee signs his own tax pledge, not Norquist’s," May 14, 2015.

CNN, Graham says he’d break no-tax pledge," Nov. 25, 2012.

ATR, "Norquist statement on Walker tax record," Aug. 8, 2015.

Real Clear Politics, "Norquist likes what he sees in Trump’s tax plan,"July 20, 2016.

Tax Policy Center, "Major candidate tax proposals," accessed July 23, 2016.

Real Clear Politics, "Jeb still won’t sign Grover’s anti-tax pledge," May 2, 2015.

The American Presidency Project, Presidential debate transcripts 2015-2016, assessed July 22, 2016.

Email from Josh Schwerin, spokesman for Clinton campaign, July 23, 2016.

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Clinton wrongly says she was only one in primaries to nix middle-class tax hikes

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