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Steve Contorno, Times Staff Writer

Steve Contorno

Steve Contorno is a staff writer for PolitiFact in the Tampa Bay Times Washington, D.C., bureau. He previously covered Congress and Virginia politics for the Washington Examiner as well as state and local governments in Wisconsin for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. A native of the Chicago suburbs, Steve graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism and a minor in political science, and holds a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield, where he covered the Illinois legislature for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Phone: (202) 463-0575


The Contorno file:

Twitter: @scontorno

  1. PolitiFact: Is Ted Cruz, born in Canada, eligible to run for president? (w/video)


    For most of his presidential campaign and much of his presidency, President Barack Obama endured erroneous claims that he was born in Kenya rather than the United States. He released the short form of his birth certificate to prove he was born in Hawaii. Then the long form. The conspiracists quieted down but did not go away.

    Now, the first candidate to throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 presidential contest, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was born outside the United States, a fact he willingly offered. ...

    Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for president last week. He was born in Canada to an American mother.
  2. PolitiFact: The federal health care law, things that came true and things that didn't (w/video)

    State Roundup

    Predictions about the health care law were a dime a dozen back in 2010. Supporters contended that virtually everyone around the country would soon have access to affordable insurance. Opponents said the law would cost a fortune by adding to the national debt and killing jobs.

    Actually, none of those things have happened.

    As the Affordable Care Act makes its way to its fifth anniversary on Monday, the law has taken twists and turns, moving off course from where everyone thought it would be....

  3. PolitiFact: Fact-checking a defense of Hillary Clinton's private email use


    People defending Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday over revelations that she used a private email account as secretary of state offered a novel piece of evidence to bolster their argument.

    While the State Department has asked all previous secretaries to turn over their private emails, only Clinton has complied, they claimed. "The State Department asked all secretaries of state to send their emails over, and she's the only one who's done it," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on CBS' Face the Nation....

    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is under scrutiny for using a personal email account for official business while in office.
  4. Politifact: Conservative group says Clinton Foundation took millions from foreign governments


    A group founded by Karl Rove launched one of the first salvos of the 2016 presidential election cycle with a Web video attacking presumed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

    American Crossroads released a video Feb. 23 that alleges that "the Clintons' foundation took millions from foreign governments" including "up to $5 million" from the United Arab Emirates and "up to $25 million" from Saudi Arabia. The video shows photos of Clinton meeting with various foreign delegates and leaders....

    American Crossroads released a video Feb. 23 that alleges that "the Clintons' foundation took millions from foreign governments" including "up to $5 million" from the United Arab Emirates and "up to $25 million" from Saudi Arabia.  [Getty Images]
  5. PolitiFact: Sen. Rand Paul's statement about tax credit fraud leaves out important details


    The statement

    "When you look at the earned income tax credit, it has about a 25 percent fraud rate. We're looking at $20 billion to $30 billion."

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Jan. 25 at the Freedom Partners 2015 California retreat

    The ruling

    The Earned Income Tax Credit is the only IRS program that is considered a high-risk for improper payments, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said in 2014. At the root of the problem is the complex nature of the tax credit: It is available to only low-income individuals, and it fluctuates based on earnings, number of children and other factors. The churn into and out of the program is high — about one-third of all recipients are first-timers, or their eligibility changes year-to-year due to swings in their income. This creates confusion among both recipients and administrators....

    WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 03:  Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) leaves the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol February 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats filibustered the legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department because it included a measure to roll back President Obama's executive order on immigration.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 535712071
  6. PolitiFact: Injecting truth into vaccine debate


    A recent measles outbreak at California's iconic Disneyland put the spotlight on a disease many people had probably thought was on the verge of eradication.

    But it also instigated debates about the safety of the measles vaccine — which the scientific community and the vast majority of the population consider long settled — and whether it should be mandated for children.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., straddled both sides of the debate when he endorsed vaccines as safe but suggested they should be voluntary during a Feb. 2 interview on CNBC....

    The measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine is 99 percent effective at preventing measles.
  7. PolitiFact: Fact-checking U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's new book

    State Roundup

    Sen. Marco Rubio's new book, American Dreams, makes its appearance at a fascinating moment for the Republican Party. The GOP has just taken control of both chambers of Congress, and candidates like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are signaling their intentions for 2016 presidential runs.

    Rubio, a potential presidential hopeful himself, argues in his book that now is the time for Republicans to talk about their own big ideas....

    “If (low-income) people work and make more money, they lose more in benefits than they would earn in salary,” Sen. Marco Rubio writes in his new book, a claim that turns out to be Mostly False.
  8. PolitiFact: What we know about Steve Scalise attending a white power event (w/video)


    How Rep. Steve Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House, came to speak at a white supremacist rally in 2002 — or right before it — remained a confusing controversy as Congress returned for its new session.

    Conflicting accounts and the fog of time have all clouded the events of May 2002, when the European-American Unity and Rights Organization held a conference in the New Orleans area. The group, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group with anti-Semitic and racist writings, was headed by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and prominent Louisiana politician....

    House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the third-ranking Republican in the House, says he rejects all forms of bigotry. The fog of time makes it hard to establish to whom he did or didn’t speak 13 years ago.
  9. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Ferguson and police issues in 2014


    Perhaps no other news event drew more attention this year than the deadly August shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by former Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson.

    The shooting and ensuing protests — which rekindled in November after a grand jury chose not to charge Wilson — sparked debates about race relations in the United States, the militarization of local law enforcement and officer-involved shootings. They were amplified by several other deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police around the country....

    Rand Paul
  10. PolitiFact: Why most Cubans don't have Internet (w/video)


    There's a good chance most Cubans won't be able to read this article. And the reason why — lack of Internet access — is a point of contention between President Barack Obama and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

    Obama on Dec. 17 announced sweeping changes to the United States' decades-old isolation policy against Cuba, promising renewed diplomatic relations and an easing of regulations on commerce. Obama said the drastic shift in approach to the Communist-controlled island would help bolster the Cuban people, who he said have suffered from America's cold shoulder....

    Students stand outside a building to find an Internet signal for their phones in Havana, Cuba. In programs revealed by the Associated Press, USAID secretly created a primitive social media program called ZunZuneo.
  11. PolitiFact: Is America younger than its rivals thanks to immigration?


    The statement

    "We are younger than our competitors, and this is entirely because of immigration."

    President Barack Obama, in a speech to business leaders

    The ruling

    "Competitors" is a loose term, but judging by the countries Obama listed in a longer excerpt of his speech, he's comparing the United States to other large economies.

    And, for the most part, he has a point. ...

    President Barack Obama answers questions about his recent executive actions on immigration at Casa Azafran in Nashville on Tuesday.
  12. PunditFact: Are 1 in 5 college women sexual assault victims?


    Rolling Stone magazine late last week was forced to walk back its bombshell story describing a brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity after intense scrutiny unveiled journalistic lapses in the reporting.

    Conservative and liberal commentators appearing Sunday on ABC's This Week agreed that the fallout from Rolling Stone's blunder would be a setback for victims of sexual assault....

    Rolling Stone backtracked on an article that described a gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, on the University of Virginia campus, casting doubt on the alleged victim.
  13. PolitiFact's guide to harmony and accuracy at Thanksgiving dinner


    You just sat down for Thanksgiving dinner, famished from a game of touch football in the back yard with all the cousins. The mashed potatoes are steaming. Your family is going around the table to say what they're thankful for — love, one another and good health aplenty.

    But there's always one person who's just a little too surly for the occasion. This person — maybe he's like Saturday Night Live's Drunk Uncle — falls asleep to cable news and doesn't like what he's learned from "the Facebook." He uses the meal to go on a diatribe about immigration and the do-nothing Congress, and before anyone can stop it, he's roped the entire table into a political debate....

    There's always one person at Thanksgiving dinner who's just a little too surly for the occasion. This person - maybe he's like Saturday Night Live's Drunk Uncle - falls asleep to cable news and doesn't like what he's learned from "the Facebook." He uses the meal to go on a diatribe about immigration and the do-nothing Congress, and before anyone can stop it, he's roped the entire table into a political debate. [NBC]
  14. PolitiFact checks Charlie Crist, Rick Scott statements in final debate


    60,000 jobs for high-speed rail? No

    The statement: Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail would have created 60,000 jobs.

    Charlie Crist, during a debate Tuesday night

    The ruling

    Gov. Rick Scott refused $2.4 billion in federal funds for a proposed Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed line when he first came into office in 2011, joining several other Republican governors in rejecting federal stimulus money. But would it have created 60,000 jobs? By the Florida Department of Transportation's own estimates, the project would have created about 50,000 jobs — 23,600 direct jobs, like construction, and 26,300 indirect jobs, like those created for equipment suppliers. So right away, claiming 60,000 jobs is highballing the state's estimate. But even the 50,000-job figure is fuzzy. FDOT calculated jobs in "job-years," which refers to the number of jobs that will be funded each year. The best way to look at the rail project is to say that it would have employed directly or indirectly 6,200 workers in 2011, 21,600 workers in 2012, 18,900 workers in 2013, 2,100 workers in 2014. About 600 permanent workers would be needed to keep the rail running and about 500 spinoff jobs would have been created. That's a far cry from 60,000 jobs. We rate the statement False....

    MIRAMAR, FL - OCTOBER 10:  Former Florida Governor and Democratic candidate Charlie Crist speaks during a televised debate with Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott at NBCUniversal/Telemundo 51 on October 10, 2014 in Miramar, Florida.  Governor Scott is facing off against Crist in the November 4, 2014 governors race.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) 516243409
  15. PunditFact fact-checks the Sept. 21 news shows


    President Barack Obama will have allies if he decides to expand airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group to targets in Syria, vowed the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, on Sunday.

    Appearing on three network news shows, Power touted international support for Obama's war strategy ahead of his Wednesday address to the U.N. General Assembly. But Power would not say which countries have voiced support for airstrikes in Syria when pressed by moderators like George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week, who noted "not even Great Britain has said they're going to join the airstrikes."...

    President Barack Obama greets some of the 1,200 service men and women after his speech at MacDill Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014.  In the speech, Obama reaffirmed his decision not to commit ground troops to the fight and said that the U.S. will not go at it alone as he seeks to destroy ISIS. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]