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Carlos Curbelo's 'Ponzi scheme' remark on Medicare, Social Security makes it into Joe Garcia attack ad


A remark by Carlos Curbelo videotaped without his knowledge is now the centerpiece of U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia's latest attack ad.

"Two faced corporate lobbyist Carlos Curbelo: In Florida Curbelo claims one thing about Medicare and Social Security, but at a Washington meeting Curbelo changed his tune, calling Social Security and Medicare a Ponzi scheme," says the 30-second spot, which Garcia's campaign launched Tuesday. 

The ad also cites Curbelo saying that potential reforms to Medicare might include "means testing," so wealthier seniors might pay higher premiums than less affluent ones.

Curbelo made both comments earlier this month to a group of college Republicans in Washington D.C. He was being recorded by a Democratic tracker, the name given to people sent by opposition campaigns to follow a candidate's every move. PolitiFact rated Curbelo's "Ponzi scheme" claim False.

Curbelo spokesman Wadi Gaitan countered in a statement Tuesday that by voting for the federal healthcare law, Garcia is the one who wants to cut Medicare.

"In Congress, Garcia voted to keep a program that would slash $716 billion from Medicare and would cut Medicare Advantage by $156 billion, meaning seniors will soon lose the plans and doctors they know and like," Gaitan said.

His statement doesn't mention the Affordable Care Act by name. But claiming that Obamacare cuts senior benefits has been a talking point for Republicans elsewhere. PolitiFact has rated claims differently depending on how they're worded, but a general statement by the National Congressional Campaign Committee that the federal law includes a "$700 billion cut from Medicare for seniors" has been rated Half True.

Like Democrats across the country, Miami's Garcia has tried to make Medicare a central campaign issue to drive out base voters to the Nov. 4 midterm elections. Republicans have a far better track record of getting their supporters to the polls in non-presidential years.

The fact that Garcia has unveiled his second attack ad in 10 days suggests the closely watched race is tight. A public opinion survey commissioned by Curbelo earlier this month showed him slightly ahead of Garcia, who has not released his own poll results.


This post has been updated to better explain means testing.