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"It Made for Good Sound Bytes"

Jim Gilio, White House Spokesperson for the Recovery Act, debunks attacks on the so-called “The Napa Wine Train” project.

Last week, we told you how CNN had fact-checked the top ten items in a report issued by two opponents of the Recovery Act and found that nine of their top ten claims were false.

  • “We took a closer look at the Senators’ top ten examples of so-called waste.  We found that nine of the ten did not tell the whole story and in some cases were inaccurate.” [CNN, 1/25/10]

But recently, CNN and others in the press have taken a look at #11 on the Senators’ list: which they call the “The Napa Wine Train” project, but is really a job creating flood protection project that will make the city of Napa safer while putting up to 600 people on the job.

In their report, the Senators’ titled the project “All Aboard The Wine Train!,“ and imply that the Recovery Act is frivolously funding a three hour Napa Valley train tour:

  • “The Napa Wine Train has proven to be a popular tourist attraction, providing, ― a relaxing three hour journey along the thirty six-mile round-trip… through one of the world's most famous wine valleys. One of the most popular meals on the train is the $124 Vista Dome Lunch, where guests enjoy ―a complimentary glass of California sparkling wine [that] continues with a four course lunch of their choice.”

Thankfully, CNN and others have recently corrected this report:

  • CNN said: “In fact, the money is not being spent on the wine train. The stimulus money is for a massive flood control project for the valley.” [CNN, 1/28/10]
  • A spokesperson for the Napa River Flood Control Project agreed, “This is perfectly fitting into what stimulus was intend to do. As you see here, people are on the job working today who may not be otherwise.” [CNN, 1/28/10]
  • And you can check with the Napa Wine Train folks, “The person who did the research for the senators didn't do a thorough job and I think if they had done a thorough job we wouldn't have been on the list at all.” [CNN, 1/28/10]

Even the San Francisco Chronicle posted a blog calling out Senators’ McCain and Coburn:

  • “It made for good sound bytes: Obama's handing money to the rich liberals in California! (Lunch on the train runs into three figures.) But it turns out that's not what happened at all.  The stimulus is actually funding the Napa River Flood Project's efforts to elevate the train's tracks and build a flood wall at the depot. These projects are just a small part of an overall plan to manage flooding in the area.” [SF CHRONICLE]

Here’s what’s really going on:

  • “Supporters of the project say the stimulus fund will create at least 600 jobs and those jobs are expected to last two to three years until the project is done. But that's for the whole flood project. The contractor expects the track work will employ some 200 people. Once complete it should mean Napa won't flood every few years.” [CNN, 1/28/10]

As the President puts forward new measures to ensure every American who wants a job can get one, here’s what we know: 2 million jobs already funded by the Recovery Act, two quarters of GDP growth helping pave the road to recovery, and a flood protection project in Napa Valley is creating jobs while protecting a community against flooding.

Here’s what we expect moving forward: as the President introduces new jobs measures like he did today, we hope that the Administration’s opponents get off the sidelines and engage in meaningful dialogue that will help rebuild America’s middle class.

Jim Gilio is White House Spokesperson for the Recovery Act