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Fact checking the South Carolina Democratic Presidential debate

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Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden at the Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston on Tuesday, February 25, 2020. Lauren Petracca/Staff

A lot was uttered by the seven Democratic candidates for president who faced off in Charleston on Tuesday night.

Some of it was jumbled. Some of it was exaggerated, and some of it was true.

Several of the messages were South Carolina specific.

Here's a fact check on some of the issues the candidates debated on stage at Charleston's Gaillard Center.

Did Michael Bloomberg fund Lindsey Graham's earlier campaign?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg isn't the right candidate to take on President Donald Trump because he helped fund earlier campaigns for South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

That is true. Reporting by The Post and Courier in 2014 noted that Bloomberg gave $250,000 to a Super PAC that supported Graham.

Graham at the time was in the middle of a Republican primary race. The Super PAC was known as West Main Street Values PAC.

Does Pete Buttigieg have 2,000 donors in Charleston?

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tried to attack former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg for the wealthy donors that contributed to his campaign. In response, Buttigieg told the audience that he has 2,000 donors from Charleston that have contributed to his presidential bid.

That is not true, according to the most recent campaign finance data online. Data from the Federal Election Commission shows that Buttigieg's campaign actually has 120 unique donors who live in Charleston, as of his last campaign filing at end of 2019.

He did have roughly 614 unique donors in South Carolina, according to that same data. Donations will be updated as the calendar moves along.

Did Steyer invest in a private prison that hog-tied an inmate in South Carolina?

Former Vice President Joe Biden attacked billionaire Tom Steyer for previously investing in a private prison company whose employees allegedly beat and hog-tied a South Carolina inmate.

That's true. William Pacetti was a minor when he was an inmate at a facility for juvenile offenders in Richland County between 1996 and 1997, according to newspaper archives. Pacetti alleged guards hog-tied, maced and threw him against a wall. A lawsuit was filed against the prison's owner, Corrections Corporation of America. The teenager won a $3 million settlement in 2000.

The hedge fund Steyer founded in 1986 made investments in Corrections Corporation of America beginning in the mid-2000s, according to records with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Steyer has since said he regrets the investments.

Did Bernie Sanders vote against waiting periods for gun purchases?

In the city that suffered the Emanuel AME Church murders, Biden didn't take long to take a shot at Sanders and his record on gun-control legislation. Biden specifically said Sanders voted against the so-called Brady Bill.

That's true and Sanders does have a mixed record on voting for gun-control legislation in Congress.

In 1993, Sanders voted against versions of the Brady Bill, which sought to implement a federal five-day waiting period on gun purchases while background checks are run. He did, however, support a version of that legislation that put in place instant background checks.

Sanders voted for a successful bill in 1994 that implemented a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles, and then voted against efforts to repeal that law two years later.

In 2003, Sanders voted to prohibit lawsuits against firearm manufacturers. That bill was meant to make those companies immune from to litigation seeking damages resulting from the misuse of their products by others. A decade later, in 2013, Sanders again voted for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Did Joe Biden help to get $500 million in federal funding for the Port of Charleston?

Biden used his time on stage in Charleston to boast about helping the Port of Charleston get $500 million in federal funding. It's true that President Barack Obama's administration directed millions of dollars to the Port of Charleston.

The Post and Courier previously reported that former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley lobbied Obama and Biden to support the harbor deepening work in Charleston. The port did get the money. It's not clear how much influence Biden personally played in that money flowing to the South Carolina Ports Authority.

Mary Katherine Wildeman contributed reporting.

Clarification: The Buttigieg campaign said Wednesday their numbers since the last federal reporting period closed in December show having more than 2,300 donors who have given $277,000 from the Charleston area. Those donations will be reflected in future federal 2020 disclosure records.

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