CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Democrats have been lying. For months.
That's the conclusion that media fact-checkers have reached, again and again, in the presidential campaign that pits the incumbent Democrat, President Obama, against Republican Mitt Romney.
Now no single Democrat has provided the one, single, handy compendium of whoppers that the Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, dished out in his acceptance speech last week.
And it's too soon to know whether anyone will match Ryan's tall-tale output in any one speech at the Democratic National Convention here this week.
But that doesn't mean Democrats are innocent of exaggeration. They've just spread out the deceit rather evenly, among different sources and many months, and they did it for an obvious reason.
"Both political parties will stretch the truth if they believe it will advance their political interests," noted Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's fact-checker.
That being the case, here are a few examples, all cited as among the worst of the worst by nonpartisan fact-checkers such as Politifact and
The claim: Romney closed a steel mill, and a laid-off worker's wife became ill with cancer "a short time" afterward.
The truth: The woman died five years after the plant closed.
Perhaps the most notorious ad of the campaign so far came from Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama "Super PAC" co-founded by Buffalo native and former White House aide Bill Burton.
The ad, called "Understands," features Joe Soptic, a steelworker who lost his job when his plant closed in 2001 after Bain Capital, Romney's company, bought it.
In the ad, Soptic says: "When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care, and my family lost their health care. And a short time after that, my wife became ill.
"I don't know how long she was sick, and I think maybe she didn't say anything because she knew that we couldn't afford the insurance. And then one day she became ill, and I took her up to the Jackson County Hospital and admitted her for pneumonia. And that's when they found the cancer, and by then, it was Stage 4. . There was nothing they could do for her.
"And she passed away in 22 days." pointed out three big problems with that ad:
. The steel mill closed in 2001, and Ranae Soptic didn't die until 2006.
. Soptic told CNN that his wife didn't lose her health insurance until a year or two after the plant closed.
. Romney had left his active role at Bain Capital and was running the Salt Lake City Olympics when the plant closed.
Add it all up, and fact-checkers were outraged by the ad.
"The ad uses innuendo for a serious allegation, but there's no proof directly linking the death to Bain," said Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning website, which rated the ad false.
The claim: Romney is a "corporate raider" who outsourced jobs both as an executive and as Massachusetts governor.
The truth: Romney never was a corporate raider, and the outsourcing claims are exaggerated.
One of several pro-Obama ads that trash Romney's career at Bain, an ad released in July takes things one step further and accuses him of outsourcing jobs as Massachusetts governor.
"Running for governor, Mitt Romney campaigned as a job creator," the ad, called "Come and Go," said. "But as a corporate raider, he shipped jobs to China and Mexico. As governor, he did the same thing: outsourcing state jobs to India."
The Post's Kessler gave this ad "four Pinocchios" - the worst possible rating - for several reasons.
For one thing, Romney ran a private equity firm that invested in companies, but that doesn't make him a "corporate raider."
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a corporate raider is "one who mounts an unwelcome takeover bid by buying up shares (usu. discreetly) on the stock market."
Romney did something very different. He bought up companies that needed and wanted a capital infusion. That means it's "simply inaccurate" to call him a corporate raider, said.
What's more, the "Romney as outsourcer" theme is spurious in this context.
Bain did indeed invest in companies that outsourced work overseas. But of the three examples cited in the ad, two occurred after Romney left Bain, and there's "no clear evidence that a third company shipped jobs to China under Romney," said.
As for the argument that Romney outsourced jobs as governor, Massachusetts had a long-standing contract with Citigroup to manage electronic food-stamp cards, and used a call center in India. The State Legislature passed a bill prohibiting the state from contracting with companies that would outsource state work, and Romney vetoed it, citing its costs. But he did not proactively decide to outsource jobs to India.
Add it all up, "and on just about every level, this ad is misleading, unfair and untrue," the Post fact-checker said.
The claim: Romney didn't pay taxes for 10 years.
The truth: There's no proof of that.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made this claim in a July interview with the Huffington Post, saying a Bain investor had called his office and said of Romney: "Harry, he didn't pay any taxes for 10 years."
Politifact rated this claim "Pants on Fire" - its very worst rating - and the Post awarded Reid four Pinocchios for one obvious reason: Reed couldn't prove what he said.
"Reid has produced no evidence to back up his claim other than attribution to a shadowy anonymous source," Politifact said. "Romney has denied the claim, and tax experts back him up, saying that the nature of Romney's investments in Bain make it highly unlikely he would have been able to avoid paying taxes altogether - especially for 10 years."
In other words, "Reid has made an extreme claim with nothing solid to back it up," Politifact said. "Pants on fire!"
The claim: Romney "backed a bill that outlaws all abortions."
The truth: While anti-abortion, Romney says the practice should be legal in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.
This claim came in a Obama campaign ad in July that Politifact rated "Pants on fire" for the obvious contradiction between the ad and Romney's clear statement on the topic.
"Romney backed a bill that outlaws all abortion, even in case of rape and incest," said the Obama ad, called "Jenny's story."
But last year, in an op-ed article in the National Review, Romney said: "I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother."
That being the case, Politifact said: "In its effort to appeal to women, the Obama campaign has twisted Romney's position to a ridiculous degree."
The bottom line: Politicians of both parties are treating the truth like a stranger, and are ignoring the issues that really matter.
While we've heard a lot about Bain Capital, lamented recently that we haven't heard a lot of concrete solutions on jobs, on the looming federal debt crisis or on health care costs.
"Besides being marked by a cavalier disregard for facts on both sides," said, "the campaign also has become bitter and trivial."