What's that smell? Better power up the Malarkey Meter

I've heard from so many readers bewitched, bothered and bewildered by nasty campaign accusations that I decided to dust off the Malarkey Meter and start putting these claims to the truth test.

Here's the problem: The fibs and fabrications are so numerous that I couldn't fit them all in one column. So we'll run a half-dozen through the meter today. We'll have many more Friday.

But we're going to start with an expanded section featuring what may be the most distortion-filled campaign I've seen in the past decade — the pro-development attacks on Amendment 4.

The chamber of commerce crowd has been distorting things about this one for more than three years — and just recently got caught telling one of the worst whoppers this campaign season.

They started back in 2007 when they tried to con residents into thinking the amendment would hand decisions about local growth to "special interests." (That's not true unless you're a special interest. The proposal simply lets citizens vote on developments and growth matters in their own communities.)

It continued last year when they claimed the amendment was designed to "stop growth." (Planning officials later confirmed that a city like Orlando, for instance, already has enough future growth approved to nearly double in size, regardless what happens with Amendment 4.)

But the pinnacle of prevarication for the anti-Amendment 4 folks appeared in this very newspaper 10 days ago. It was a full-page ad that claimed Amendment 4 "will force counties and cities across Florida to raise taxes and fees," citing the widely respected PolitiFact.com as its source for that claim.

Here's the problem: PolitiFact never said such a thing. In fact, it later labeled that very claim as a "Pants on Fire" lie. And it's a bad scene when your supposed sources are calling you a liar.

Listen. I'll be the first to acknowledge there are legitimate questions and concerns about Amendment 4. But the anti-4 forces have rarely even flirt with legitimacy in their attacks.

Rating: Major Malarkey, time and time again.

Claim: Alex Sink wants to create an income tax in Florida. So suggested Republican Rick Scott in one of the recent gubernatorial debates. Not only has Sink suggested no such thing, income taxes are actually constitutionally prohibited in this state.

Rating: Major Malarkey.

The claim: Republican Sandy Adams wants to raise sales taxes to 23 percent. So says Democrat congressional incumbent Suzanne Kosmas in a TV ad. The claim is generally correct in that Adams has supported the "Fair Tax," which relies primarily on a majorly jacked-up consumption tax. But the ad leaves out all context about how the plan would also call for abolishing all sorts of other taxes.

The rating: Fast and Loose.

The claim: Democrats Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson are out to hurt Florida seniors. That's the take-away from the ads run by the 60-plus Association, a group that bills itself as a nonpartisan, "conservative alternative" to AARP. (Think about that for a minute, by the way: conservative and nonpartisan. How interesting.) In a nutshell, these ads claim they "betrayed" seniors by cutting costs to Medicare — but fail to mention the increased benefits seniors would actually reap, like increased reimbursements. Politifact rated these ads as "Barely true." I concur.

The rating: Fast and loose.

Claim: Teresa Jacobs is a "Republican Lobbyist." So said the Florida Democratic Party in a mailer, where it butting its nose into the Orange County's nonpartisan mayoral race. The problem: It's simply not true. Jacobs isn't registered as a lobbyist anywhere. And she doesn't lobby for anyone other than her own campaign. Asked if the party had anything even remotely resembling proof to back up their claim this week, the Democrats in Tallahassee couldn't come up with a thing.

The rating: Major Malarkey.

The claim: Teresa Jacobs is a person of color. Admittedly, this one's a little tongue in cheek. But some people noticed that one of Bill Segal's mailings sent to Republicans included a cartoon picture of Jacobs that seemed to depict her as a dark-skinned super-hero. Well, I've thoroughly researched this matter and can definitively say Teresa's whiter than Beaver Cleaver. Truthfully, I think Bill knows this. In fact, he included pictures of real, live, Caucasian Teresa in mailers he sent to Democrats. But just in case these fliers left you thinking Jacobs might make history as Orange County's first black mayor, you should know she wouldn't.

Rating: Fast and loose … and just kinda weird.

If you have more campaign claims or ads you want vetted in Friday's column, feel free to send them my way at smaxwell@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6141.

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