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More than 2,000 years ago, the Greek playwright Aeschylus observed that in war, truth is the first casualty.
In today’s political wars, if truth is not the first casualty, it’s definitely in harm’s way.
In the eight weeks since the September primary, we’ve examined 21 claims from candidates or their supporters.
We rated 11 Mostly False or worse on our Truth-O-Meter’s six-point scale. Nine were True or Mostly True, one was Half True.
But recently, as the campaigns ramped up their attacks with increasingly harsh commercials and mailers, the ratings have definitely trended downward.
Just in the last week, we ruled Mostly False on claims by the two major party candidates for governor, Republican Allan Fung and Democrat Gina Raimondo.
Fung said that Raimondo "paid 70 million in taxpayer dollars to millionaire hedge fund managers," referring to funds that make up a portion of the state’s pension plan investments.
But the last reported figure for hedge funds fees was $45 million, not $70 million. More misleading was saying that Raimondo paid the fees, as if the decision to invest in hedge funds was hers alone, and not by vote of the State Investment Commission, which she chairs.
Raimondo said that she "fought 38 Studios from the beginning," referring to the state’s investment in the failed video-game company started by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.
We found that Raimondo did warn about the investment, but there was no evidence that she actively fought it in the way some others did, most notably Lincoln Chafee, when he was running for governor.
Over the long election campaign, which seems as though it started when Aeschylus was a young man, we’ve examined claims from almost every major candidate in every statewide race, as well as the Providence mayor’s race.
The mayor’s race, between independent Vincent A. Cianci Jr. and Democrat Jorge Elorza, produced perhaps the most inflammatory claim of the season, earning Local 799 of the International Association of Fire Fighters a Pants on Fire ruling.
The union, which endorsed Cianci, said that Democrat Jorge Elorza "wants to teach our public school children about the ‘non-existence of God." We found that was a gross distortion of theoretical legal arguments Elorza examined in a scholarly law review article.
Our goal is always to help readers separate political fact from fiction as they contend with attack ads, sound bites and canned campaign rhetoric.
In our four years in operation, we think we have had at least a slight effect on the public discourse in Rhode Island. News releases now often appear with multiple footnotes to document their claims. And candidates regularly invoke PolitiFact in speeches and debates, although not always kindly.
Sometimes, the candidate who railed against us for a negative ruling one day is citing us in a TV ad the next to make a point.
Before you vote Tuesday, we urge you to visit the PolitiFact Rhode Island web site. You can read all our rulings, searchable by candidate, issue and race.
We’ll be taking a short breather until the votes are counted. But then we’ll be back in action, on the lookout for statements that make you ask: "Is that really true?"
If you hear a claim that you’d like us to check, email us at [email protected]. And follow us on Twitter: @politifactri.