PolitiFact Florida wins two Green Eyeshade awards
By Aaron Sharockman
Published on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 at 9:39 a.m.
We got some good news over the weekend -- PolitiFact Florida won two Green Eyeshade awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. The awards recognize outstanding journalism in media organizations throughout the Southeast in 11 states.
PolitiFact Florida won first place for politics reporting online, and second place for public affairs reporting.
Because some readers asked, here are the five items that we submitted to the judges.
1. A story summarizing five different fact checks from a 2-minute ad from Democrats attacking then-GOP candidate for governor Rick Scott.
From the story: Democrat Alex Sink is unveiling a new, hard-hitting ad that whacks Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott for alleged fraud at his former health care company, Columbia/HCA, as well as his current health care business, Solantic.
We (and likely you) have heard many of the claims before. Among them -- that Scott took the Fifth Amendment 75 times in a deposition, that Columbia/HCA paid $1.7 billion in fines, that Solantic has been accused of fraud.
But this ad is different.
It's two minutes long and produced as a faux-news magazine segment called "Fraud Files." The only giveaway the ad is political is the disclaimer saying the spot is paid for by the Florida Democratic Party.
How much of it is true? PolitiFact Florida decided to analyze the ad's claims.
2. Marco Rubio claims 57 of his 100 ideas were made law by the Florida Legislature. (Half True).
From the story: Marco Rubio's two years as speaker of Florida's House of Representatives were marked by passionate speeches, promises of conservative principles and a book filled with 100 ways to transform state government.
100 Innovative Ideas For Florida's Future promised a sea change -- from lowering property taxes and insurance rates, to luring Hollywood productions to the state; from recalibrating Florida's schools, to building a better Web site for the state budget.
The ideas became the agenda of the Republican-led House in 2007 and 2008 and a personal report card for Rubio, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
In the end, Rubio gave himself A's.
3. Rick Scott says that Florida is the only state in the country that state employees don't contribute to their pensions. (Mostly True).
From the story: Gov.-elect Rick Scott is taking office next month with big plans to cut state spending.
One idea Scott has suggested is to cut $1.4 billion in state pension costs by making government employees contribute to their own retirement. Scott brought up the issue during the campaign and again on Dec. 14, 2010, in a meeting with state legislators.
"What do you all think about employees contributing to the pension plan?'' Scott asked legislators about ways to shrink state spending. "We are the only state in the country that state employees don't contribute'' to their pensions.
Last year, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the state and local governments contributed nearly $3.4 billion to the retirement fund, the Florida Retirement System. Governments typically contribute between 9 and 10 percent of an employee's annual income toward retirement. Employees are required to contribute nothing.
Is Florida the only state with a system like that?
Not quite, according to a PolitiFact Florida review of the state retirement systems of all 50 states. But Scott isn't far off either.
4. Alan Grayson says Daniel Webster thinks wives should submit to their husbands. (False).
From the story: The Grayson ad clearly suggests that Webster thinks wives should submit to their husbands, and the repeated refrain of "Submit to me," is an effort to scare off potential female voters. But the lines in the video are clearly taken out of context thanks to some heavy-handed editing. The actual point of Webster's 2009 speech was that husbands should love their wives.
Maybe Webster thinks wives should submit to their husbands. But there's no evidence in this ad, especially Webster's own words, to support that allegation. We rate Grayson's claim False.
5. Kendrick Meek says Warren Buffett called (Jeff) Greene's scheme 'financial weapons of mass destruction.' (False).
From the story: Congressman Kendrick Meek launched his first TV attack ad against opponent Jeff Greene in the Florida Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.
The ad, called "He's the Man," attacks Greene's background as a billionaire who made money as the economy soured.
"Meet the real Jeff Greene: Ran for Congress as a California Republican. Moved to Florida two years ago. Became a billionaire on Wall Street betting middle-class families would lose their homes. Helped fuel the economic meltdown. Warren Buffett called Greene's scheme 'financial weapons of mass destruction.' "
The ad then shows footage of Greene saying, "They'll attack me for my friends and my past when I was single. Some of it's true, but none of it matters."
"Betting on suffering does matter," the narrator responds.
See individual items.
Researchers: Aaron Sharockman