If you can stand the heat, we've got Pants on Fire for you!
No ties to lobbyists? No negative ads? No private jobs from the stimulus?
We said "no" to all those claims, and more.
Here at PolitiFact Florida, we have a special rating we call Pants on Fire, with pretty flickering flames on the Truth-O-Meter for those statements that are not only false, but ridiculously false. As we speed into the final weekend of campaigning, let's reflect on this overheated 2010 political season.
• Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott went in front of the Tallahassee press corps on the Friday before Labor Day and said, "We know the stimulus has not created one private sector job." But we found plenty of evidence that not only were new jobs created, but hundreds of private employers in Florida signed up to provide them. We tracked down Billy Weston, an account executive at a Riviera Beach pharmaceutical company, who said that even though he was a "devout Republican," Scott's claim was "absolutely wrong." The clincher: A Louisiana company where Scott is a part-owner sent out a press release proclaiming it had established 1,300 private jobs because of a stimulus grant.
• Six weeks later, Scott's running mate, Jennifer Carroll, met the Broward County Republican Executive Committee and told them Scott "doesn't have any ties to a lobbyist." We found plenty. He's gotten tens of thousands in contributions from prominent lobbyists. He's benefitted from fundraisers put on by lobbying groups. His electioneering communications operation called Let's Get to Work raised money from lobbyists. He hired lobbyists in Tallahassee for his own companies before he started running for office. No ties? No way.
• Switching to the Senate race, Gov. Charlie Crist went on CNN in late 2009 and told Wolf Blitzer "I never endorsed" the federal stimulus plan. Wait, wasn't there a big hug for President Barack Obama during a rally that year to push for passage of the $787 billion federal stimulus? Didn't he lobby Florida congressmen and women of both parties to support the stimulus? Didn't he write a letter to the White House endorsing it? Yes, yes, and yes, we said.
• Speaking of Crist and the stimulus, we ruled on a claim by his Republican opponent Marco Rubio that "the path to ObamaCare becoming law all started with Charlie Crist supporting President Obama's $787 billion stimulus." We had trouble following that logic then, and still do. Crist, while endorsing it, did little to sway votes in Congress to get the stimulus bill passed. And while the stimulus had a few health care provisions, it had little to do with the health care bill that eventually was passed by Congress.
• Congressman Kendrick Meek, the Democratic Senate candidate, gave us this gem during a debate Oct. 24: "The Taliban has been around for years and years, I mean, hundreds of thousands of years." Hundreds of thousands of years, of course, takes us way back into antiquity. The experts we talked with put the Taliban, as a political force, at about 15 to 20 years old.
• Moving down the ballot, we come to Republican congressional candidate Allen West, who faces Democratic incumbent Ron Klein in South Florida's District 22. How special is West? "I have a (security) clearance that not even the president of the United States can obtain because of my background." West, a career Army officer who retired as a lieutenant colonel after service in Iraq and Afghanistan, has a clearance called "Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information." The president has one called "Commander in Chief." We ruled that West had not topped the president on that one.
• We didn't limit ourselves to just the candidates when we made rulings. Bloggers and tweeters took the spotlight in early September when a report started flying around the internet that South Carolina's Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham had endorsed Crist for the Senate. Turns out Meek's campaign had been redistributing old press releases in an attempt to link Crist to the GOP. Graham had endorsed Crist months before, when he was still a Republican. A Huffington Post reporter didn't notice the date and sent it out on Twitter as though it were current news.
• We briefly left the world of politics and strayed into solar engineering. Boy, you thought politics was weird! State Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, of Lake Wales, was discussing the millions that Florida owes in rebates for solar energy installations. He claimed that "It takes as much energy to make a solar panel as it likely generates in its entire life." Why make them, then, we wondered? The study he sent us as evidence actually says just the opposite, that his viewpoint can be rejected.
• Finally, the Vote No on 4 crew said in a newspaper ad that we ourselves, PolitiFact Florida, said the amendment "will force counties and cities across Florida to raise taxes and fees." C'mon, folks, we check facts for a living here! And we know what we said.