Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and former state house speaker Marco Rubio “tore into each other on national television in their first debate Sunday with Crist accusing Rubio of misspending political contributions and Rubio positioning himself as the true conservative in the race,” reported the Miami Herald on March 28, 2010.

The Republican candidates for a U.S. Senate seat are going after each other even harder in their political ads and campaign statements. Enter the Florida Truth-O-Meter, a joint venture of the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times, two of Florida’s leading newspapers. The newsrooms share resources, such as coverage of the state capital, and collaborate at a shared Web site, PolitiFact Florida.

The Truth-O-Meter rates what candidates and other politicos are saying on scale from true to half-true to “Pants on fire!” The results are posted on a modified voltage meter and explained in a short article. The meter labeled as false Crist’s statement on FOX News that Marco Rubio’s 2007 tax swap proposal was a “massive tax increase.” In the same debate, the Herald said Rubio made a false statement when he said he had not voted for tax increases as a member of the West Miami commission.

The meter spreads it around, evaluating statements from other Florida officials and state political parties. The visuals are fun and the explanations are easy to follow. A potential voter can read something other than what someone has to say about the opposition.

Catching politicians bending the facts is an international sport. The Florida meter is part of a larger National Truth-O-Meter that tracks everyone from President Obama on down. And in Great Britain, there is a “Minister of Truth,” according to a February 22, 2010, article in Wired magazine. The government employee heads his own truth squad that investigates whether British politicians are accurate when they cite government statistics. In England, it seems, people are willing to pay taxes for the truth.