It's a standard nugget in Terry McAuliffe's stump speech, a tale of government procurement gone so bad that $800 taxpayer-funded chairs blocked the careers of 100 would-be nursing students.
Very little of it is true.
Here's how the Democratic candidate for governor has been telling it:
McAuliffe met a college president who grumbled about having to buy campus furnishings from the state. Assembled by prisoners under a training program, the furniture is overpriced, with some chairs costing $800. If the school, Piedmont Virginia Community College, could buy from private stores instead, it could use the savings to enroll the 100 qualified nursing students it turns away each year.
Here are the facts:
Piedmont hasn't turned away anything close to 100 applicants for nursing school. Even if it had, the college could not possibly squeeze the $400,000-a-year cost of instructing them out of its prison furniture purchases, which were below $100,000 last year. Piedmont is not even required to buy furniture from the state, although it must get a waiver to shop elsewhere.
As for the "$800 chairs," McAuliffe's campaign tried to back up that claim by providing information about a single $600 chair.
Whether McAuliffe or the college president, Frank Friedman, got the details wrong is unclear - and neither will say. Friedman declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed. McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said only that the candidate never meant to suggest that furniture savings alone would solve the instructor shortage at public colleges across Virginia.
But the story fits a pattern of exaggerations and embellishments that have peppered McAuliffe's public pronouncements over the years.
In his failed bid for his party's gubernatorial nod four years ago, McAuliffe or his staff had to walk back comments about how many houses he had built and how many toilets he had personally inspected in a housing complex he owned. He claimed to have started five businesses in Northern Virginia; all turned out to be investment partnerships with no employees, registered to his McLean home.
And when he launched an electric car company in 2009, McAuliffe said it would create 900 jobs by the end of 2012 and 10,000 cars in 2013. Today, fewer than 100 workers produce about one car every two or three days, workers told The Washington Post.
Exaggerations are standard in politics. Fact-checkers have bestowed numerous "Pinocchio" and "pants on fire" ratings on both McAuliffe and his Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
McAuliffe's story about community colleges is rooted in two real issues - state procurement rules and a shortage of nursing-school slots - that McAuliffe heard about on a tour of Piedmont.
"Terry has visited all 23 community colleges, and a consistent theme that he's heard from administrators is that there are inefficiencies like furniture purchasing mandates that are keeping much needed resources from being used to hire more teachers," Schwerin, the McAuliffe spokesman, said in an email. "No one's saying a governor pushing furniture procurement reform will by itself solve the instructor shortage and get more nurses certified - but in a budget where every dollar matters - it's certainly one part of the solution."
But in prepared speeches and in off-the-cuff remarks, McAuliffe has made it sound like furniture alone is the fix.
"Frank Friedman at Piedmont Virginia Community College said that he has to turn away qualified nursing students every year, but that if we gave him some flexibility to buy furniture from local suppliers, he could hire a new professor and expand nursing slots," he said in a September speech in Richmond.
Sometimes, as in that speech, McAuliffe adds this: "I've heard about $800 chairs and desks that are 20 percent more expensive than the market rate."
Jeffrey Kraus, spokesman for the Virginia Community College System, agreed with the concept that colleges could buy cheaper furniture and use the savings for instruction.
"In narrative form, this idea holds," he said.
It's in the details where the story breaks down.
First, colleges do not have to buy furniture from the state, although they must prove they can get the same item for less and get two state officials to sign off - a process Kraus called "a challenge."
Second, Piedmont is not turning away 100 qualified nursing students a year. The most any Virginia community college turned away this year was about 40.
And finally, savings on furniture could not pay for 100 nursing slots. The faculty cost alone would be at least $400,000 a year, since nursing accreditation standards require one instructor - minimum salary $40,061 - for every 10 students. Piedmont spent $99,802 on prison furniture last year.