Prominent Republicans, especially those on or eyeing the presidential campaign trail, are pretty busy folks. They could check the accuracy of stories before pouncing on them, but caring about facts is a time-consuming luxury that Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin can’t afford.

Likely GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday added to already widespread criticism of healthcare reform law waivers, calling the practice an example of “crony politics.”

“Another example of really crony politics or crony capitalism, if you’ve got the right connections, the right lobbyists, the right interest group, you get your special deal, and the rest of us get our wallet out, and that’s in the tax code, it’s in earmarking, and now you see it in ObamaCare,” he said on Fox News. […]

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) on Tuesday reacted to a report that many businesses received waivers in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) district, saying it was “Unflippingbelievable! No, wait, it is believable …. Seriously, this is corrupt.”

“Seriously, this is corrupt”? Seriously, this is ridiculous. If Pawlenty and Palin had just spent a little more time checking reality, they wouldn’t be repeating nonsense.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) played no role in the process by which health care waivers were granted to a number of businesses in her district, according to the company that actually requested the waivers on behalf of its clients.

Flex-Plan Services, a third-party benefits administrator based in Bellevue, Wash., made the formal applications for waivers from President Barack Obama’s health care law, said it founder, Hilarie Aitken.

“I don’t tend to vote Democratic, but I feel bad for Nancy Pelosi,” Aitken told HuffPost. “She’s really being thrown under the bus here. It has nothing to do with her at all. This was just a political power play. The way that they are shaping this — that the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, [is behind] all these waivers being granted, and how could she do this — it’s all slanted and wrong.” […]

In actuality, Aitken explained, the high percentage of waivers is the byproduct of local law rubbing against the new national legislation.

In all likelihood, the fact that the conspiracy theory is wrong is probably irrelevant when it comes to GOP rhetoric. In this case, Pawlenty and Palin, among others, jumped on a bogus story before it was debunked, but given what we’ve seen, they probably would have pounced on this anyway. The important thing is to attack, not to tell the truth.

And if recent history is any guide, the accusations will now be treated as credible, simply because prominent figures are making them. Going forward, most major outlets will tell the public about “health care waivers, which some believe have been subjected to partisan corruption…”

It’ll be false, but by injecting the nonsense into the political bloodstream, it’ll be in the discourse anyway.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.