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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

Email: scontorno@tampabay.com

The Contorno file: PolitiFact.com

Twitter: @scontorno

  1. 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....

    MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 10:  Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks during a debate with former Florida Governor and Democratic candidate Charlie Crist during a televised debate 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
  2. 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]

  3. PolitiFact: Minimum wage means most 2-bedroom apartments are out of reach


    What kind of apartment can you afford on a minimum-wage salary?

    Your options may be very limited.

    "There is no state in the U.S. where a 40-hour minimum wage work week is enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment," says a Facebook graphic posted Sept. 11 by OurTime.org, an advocacy group for young Americans.

    OurTime.org cited the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Each year, the National Low Income Housing Coalition publishes a report that calculates what they call the "housing wage," or the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a decent two-bedroom rental home....

    Truth-O-Meter for PolitiFact with a Mostly True ruling.
  4. PunditFact: Fact-checking the Sunday news shows


    President Barack Obama sat for an interview for Sunday's Meet the Press that served dual purposes: It gave Obama a chance to show resolve against fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and it gave Chuck Todd a newsmaking interview for his debut as the show's new permanent host.

    Obama said the United States will go on "some offense" to confront the terrorist Islamic State, promising to provide details in a speech Wednesday night, the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. ...

    FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, before convening a meeting with his national security team on the militant threat in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. and its allies are trying to hammer out a coalition to push back the Islamic State group in Iraq. But any serious attempt to destroy the militants or even seriously degrade their capabilities means targeting their infrastructure in Syria. That, however, is far more complicated. If it launches airstrikes against the group in Syria, the U.S. runs the risk of unintentionally strengthening the hand of President Bashar Assad, whose removal the West has actively sought the past three years. Uprooting the Islamic State, which has seized swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq, would potentially open the way for the Syrian army to fill the vacuum. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) BEI508
  5. PunditFact fact-checks the Sunday Aug. 31 shows


    President Barack Obama's lack of a clear strategy to confront the Islamic State set off resounding frustration among Republicans Sunday.

    U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., lamented Obama's reluctance compared to tough talk from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who raised his country's terrorism threat level to "severe" and announced new plans to seize jihadists' passports.

    "What is President Obama waiting for?" King said on CBS' Face the Nation. "It was a year ago this all started. I remember being in the White House with (White House Chief of Staff) Denis McDonough talking about the importance of air attacks in Syria, and we had allies lined up and then the president pulled the rug out. And those allies are going to be very hard now to get back into a coalition."...

  6. PunditFact: Checking Ferguson shooting comments from the Sunday news shows


    The killing of an unarmed black teen by a white police officer in a St. Louis suburb is raising questions about the makeup of the police department and its response to the Aug. 9 shooting.

    In some cases, answers are hard to come by.

    On Sunday, actor and civil rights activist Jesse Williams appeared on CNN's State of the Union to discuss the shooting. Williams, right, best known for his role as a doctor on Grey's Anatomy, emphasized that journalists should not sensationalize findings that don't answer questions about why 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by police — like a security video Ferguson authorities released of Brown allegedly robbing a convenience store minutes before he was killed....

    Ferguson, Mo., police Chief Thomas Jackson is shown Saturday leaving the parking lot of a gas station, which was burned during protests, after he announced the name of the police officer responsible for the Aug. 9 shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. The officer was identified as Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the police force. Brown’s killing sparked several days of violent protests in the city.
  7. PolitiFact: Clearing the air on coal issues (w/video)


    President Barack Obama's second-term promise to tackle climate change has clashed with election-year politics.

    Much of the political debate has focused on the Environmental Protection Agency's newly proposed regulations on existing power plants. If enacted, the rules would curb carbon emissions that scientists say cause global warming.

    Misinformation about these new regulations started even before the EPA released them. ...

    In coal-rich Appalachia, Republicans — and even some Democrats — have lashed out at the Obama administration, saying in ads that a “war on coal” will close down mines and power plants across the region.
  8. PolitiFact: Why Clinton, in '75, defended an accused rapist


    How Hillary Clinton at age 27 came to defend an accused rapist in rural Arkansas has suddenly become a contested piece of history in a case otherwise decided 40 years ago.

    The case resurfaced in June when the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, published a previously unreleased interview with Clinton from the 1980s. Back then, Clinton discussed her early work at a University of Arkansas legal aid clinic, where she took on the case of an indigent man charged with raping a 12-year-old girl. ...

    Evidence shows there was significant pressure on Clinton to take the case.
  9. PolitiFact: Statement on Obama's executive orders relies on incorrect premise


    The statement

    "In the last three years alone, 13 times, the Supreme Court, unanimously, 9-0, including all of the president's liberal picks, have struck down the president's executive orders."

    Sean Spicer, RNC spokesman, July 6 on CNN's State of the Union

    The ruling

    This was a bit of deja vu for us. Just one week earlier, we heard a very similar claim from Rep. Bob Goodlatte. We rated it False....

  10. 'Hard Choices' not a page-turner, but mostly factual



    Will she? Won't she?

    For more than a decade, Hillary Clinton's presidential aspirations have lingered around the political rumor mill. Would she take on President George W. Bush in 2004? Would 2008 be her year? Would she dare leave the State Department to mount a primary challenge to President Barack Obama in 2012? Is she ready to run again in 2016?

    Publication of Hard Choices, Clinton's memoir of her time as secretary of state, will only feed the speculation about her 2016 plans. In it, she portrays herself as a shrewd but pragmatic diplomat, and she responds sharply to Republican criticisms of her time at the State Department. ...

    Publication of Hard Choices, Clinton’s memoir of her time as secretary of state, will only feed the speculation about her 2016 plans. In it, she portrays herself as a shrewd but pragmatic diplomat, and she responds sharply to Republican criticisms of her time at the State Department.
  11. PolitiFact: Assumptions wrong on carbon proposal


    The statement

    New carbon regulations will increase electric bills by "$17 billion every year" and "potentially put an average of 224,000 more people out of work every year."

    House Speaker John Boehner, June 2 on his website

    The ruling

    The estimates actually come from a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study that was released in late May. We took a look at it last month, and noted it made several assumptions about the Obama administration's proposal. We warned that the findings of the study would be relatively unusable if those predictions did not come to light....

  12. Fact-checking claims about Hillary Clinton


    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's new memoir about her time heading the State Department arrives in a couple weeks, further fueling the "will-she-won't-she?" chatter surrounding her potential 2016 presidential bid.

    In anticipation of her book Hard Choices, Clinton has hit the speaking circuit, providing fact-checkers a renewed opportunity to put the former and perhaps future Democratic contender on the Truth-O-Meter. Republicans, too, are discussing (and attacking) the former first lady as they await her decision....

    WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23:  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill January 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers questioned Clinton about the security failures during the September 11 attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.  
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 160074996
  13. PolitiFact: In air wars with Koch brothers, are Democrats fighting Falses with Falses?


    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn't think much of the ads that have aired this cycle from Americans for Prosperity, a group close to billionaire libertarian industrialists Charles and David Koch. "All of them are untrue," the Nevada Democrat said in February.

    In the slightest of backpedals, he amended that statement later. "I can't say that every one of the Koch brothers' ads are a lie, but I'll say this … the vast, vast majority of them are," Reid said....

    Koch Industries executive VP David Koch speaks at the CANCER: The Emperor of All Maladies Television Launch Event hosted by Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and WETA at Remi on June 11(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision for Stand Up 2 Cancer/AP Images)
  14. PolitiFact reviews Americans for Prosperity's history, backers


    If you don't know who the Koch brothers are — and the latest survey says half of you probably don't — get ready to hear their names a lot this election season.

    David and Charles Koch are the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, the Wichita, Kan., parent company of several manufacturers and energy companies, like papermaker Georgia-Pacific and refinery Flint Hill Resources.

    They also like politics: Their financial backing helped found Americans for Prosperity, a group that has spent millions on ads this election cycle in battleground races like Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina to help Republicans win the Senate....

    Charles Koch
  15. PolitiFact: Is healthcare.gov working 'great' now


    With a March 31 deadline fast approaching to purchase health insurance or risk a penalty, the White House is engaged in a media blitz encouraging people to check out healthcare.gov.

    " Healthcare.gov works great now," President Barack Obama said this week during a video appearance on comedian Zach Galifianakis' faux talk show Between Two Ferns....

    This image from the video shows President Obama, left, with actor-comedian Zach Galifianakis during an appearance on the faux talk show Between Two Ferns. Obama’s appearance was posted Tuesday on the comic website Funny or Die.