The $4,000 chair at the center of one of Rep. John Garamendi's latest attacks on his Republican rival wasn't just empty, it was nonexistent.
The Walnut Grove Democrat rolled out a television ad last week hitting Republican rival Kim Vann on her record on veterans issues and actions as a Colusa County supervisor, claiming, among other things, that she had the county buy her a $4,000 chair while a local veterans hall remained shuttered due to financial issues.
That wasn't true.
Late Monday, after The Bee and other outlets inquired about the claim, Garamendi's camp announced that it is pulling the ad from the airwaves.
The unusual move came after a week of pushback and complaints from Vann's campaign and marked the latest example of the role independent fact-checkers are playing in political campaigns.
Media and fact-checking organizations routinely analyze political ads and statements by elected officials and candidates. The Bee began fact-checking ads in the 1990 gubernatorial race. But the practice has become increasingly widespread and in some cases is leading candidates to correct themselves.
On Tuesday, Republican congressional candidate Doug LaMalfa walked back from a claim that women who have abortions are more likely to get cancer after a TV station questioned his facts.
The Richvale Republican, who is running in the 1st Congressional District, made the argument during a Monday debate with Democrat Jim Reed sponsored by the Redding Tea Party. He repeated the stance in a post-debate interview with KRCR News.
"Research has shown that there is that higher level of incidence, there is that risk and so I would want women to be fully informed of all the aspects of it before they would make a decision like that," he told the station.
While a link between abortion and breast cancer has been the subject of medical studies, the TV station reported that groups such as the American Cancer Society have concluded there is no scientific evidence to back such claims.
LaMalfa's campaign sent out a statement of correction Tuesday morning, saying he was misinformed.
Fact-checkers were out in force during the recent political conventions in Charlotte and Tampa, calling out false or misleading statements on a range of issues, including vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's representations of his budget proposal and even his marathon time. Some analyses concluded that both political gatherings were peppered with twists of the truth.
Kimberly Nalder, a professor and director of Project for an Informed Electorate at California State University, Sacramento, said voters "need the fact-checkers more than ever" given the level of political spin and misinformation coming from campaigns. She said the ability to vet and respond to claims in almost real time online has helped the practice grow.
"I think there's a huge hunger out there in the population for some way to navigate the truth and falseness of claims, so that gap is starting to be filled more," Nalder said.
While many political lines are carefully crafted to walk the line between truth and fiction, the controversial claim in the Garamendi ad was flat-out false.
Colusa County spent roughly $4,000 on chairs in the 2007-08 fiscal year, but not on a single seat for Vann. Five new chairs for the board's chambers were purchased online for $1,933.40, according to documents provided by the county auditor-controller. An additional set of chairs purchased by the county that year was transferred for use in another agency because the seats were the wrong dimensions for the space.
The ad's characterization of a dispute between the board and supporters of a veterans hall that had been condemned by county officials because of safety concerns also lacked context and misquoted Vann's statement to a local newspaper on the matter.
Vann began calling for Garamendi to correct the record and take down the ad last week, most recently launching a Web video inviting the congressman to come sit in her chair in the chambers himself.
Garamendi campaign manager Maureen Erwin wrote in an email late Monday that the campaign has "taken the ad out of rotation and will correct the ad based on this new information."
She blamed the inaccuracy on the way the county reported its expenditures in a budget document.
"The document we received from Colusa County clearly showed an expense of over $4,000 for a chair for Kim Vann's Board of Supervisors," she wrote. "However, it now appears that for some reason, the county was not itemizing expenses according to standard accounting practices, and the chair was purchased at a lower cost."
That document, which listed the total spending on chairs for the year, did not specify whether the furniture was intended for Vann. The Bee obtained its own invoices from the county, which showed Vann's chair cost $386.68.