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PolitiFact Florida: Truth making a comeback since elections

Something strange is happening now that the election is over.

Florida politicians, dare we say it, are telling the truth a little more often.

On Oct. 29, PolitiFact Florida published the results of a sobering general election season. More than 40 percent of the claims we checked rated False or Pants on Fire. Seven in 10 claims were Half True or worse.

But now that the winners have won, and the losers have lost — a new day may be dawning for Florida's political leaders. Just look at the numbers.

In the month or so since Election Day, nearly half of the claims we've checked have been rated True or Mostly True. Throw in the Half True ratings and the number spikes to 70 percent.

"There's less hyperbole after an election," explained Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor. "Elections are high in hyperbole, high in stretching the truth to make political points. We're in a little bit of a lull right now."

Granted, the sample size is smaller, but the results are undeniable.

During the general election season, outgoing Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson earned a False and a nomination for PolitiFact's Lie of the Year for claiming Republican opponent Daniel Webster thinks wives should submit to their husbands. But now that the election is over, Grayson is leaving office with a Mostly True rating concerning the Bush-era tax cuts.

Grayson said the top 1 percent of income earners would save $83,347 a year if all of the Bush-era tax cuts are renewed as Republicans want — enough for 20,000 jars of Grey Poupon, a Hermes "Birkin" handbag, or a 110-day, around-the-world couple's cruise.

He's in the ballpark on the size of the tax break, and only fails to mention that President Barack Obama's original tax plan also would extend some of the Bush tax cuts for top income earners. Grayson later joined some House Democrats who were upset with Obama for compromising with Republicans to extend tax cuts for top income earners.

Meanwhile, Gov.-elect Rick Scott kicked off a five-day, 10-city tour of the state's major industries last week by meeting with defense contractors and Florida-based military leaders. He claimed that the defense industry makes up about 10 percent of Florida's economy.

PolitiFact Florida rated that True. Military and defense spending made up about 7.5 percent of the state's economy in 2005, according to researchers from the University of West Florida. Those researchers are in the process of updating their findings using 2008 data, and say that while they can't reveal the updated percentage yet, they did say it will be higher.

Then there was state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, who we thought may have made a ridiculous claim by saying the agency that regulates taxicab drivers in Hillsborough County requires them to wear socks.

But it does! The Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission, which Storms wants to eliminate, has a dress code that requires drivers to wear socks, a collared shirt and pants or hemmed shorts. The dress code is in place, the commission's director says, to make passengers feel comfortable.

All of this truth made us start to question what was happening. But then Scott claimed that as head of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, the company drove down national health care inflation from 18 percent to 8 percent in seven years. It was a preposterous claim that relied on a misinterpreted study and oversold one company's ability to change national inflation numbers.

So we said Pants on Fire — and, immediately, fears started to lift.

"I suspect when the legislative session comes back in full force, I expect the needle to start moving back toward the red," said Smith, the University of Florida political science professor. "Rest assured, we'll see plenty of Pants on Fire soon enough."

PolitiFact Florida: Truth making a comeback since elections 12/12/10 [Last modified: Sunday, December 12, 2010 8:15pm]
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