Thursday, November 11, 2010

Candidate Pledge Revisited

From the in box:

Free Speech vs. Fair Elections - Round one
Free societies are messy. They allow me to worship the aqua-Buddha as my God. They allow you to call me an idiot for doing so. They allow a Yemeni friend to send me a birthday present, and they almost allowed one of his countrymen to send us a bomb. They allow you to vote for the candidate of your choice, and they allow me to influence that choice by masquerading as someone you should choose. This is the case with the latest set of slate mailers delivered in a flurry over the last month to your doorstep. Democrat? Jerry Brown supporter? For Prop. 19? Against Prop. 23? We've got the candidates for you! Republican? Meg Whitman supporter? Against Prop. 19? For Prop. 23? We've got your ticket as well! Surprise! They're the same candidates! Just take this mailer with you to the polls and punch the holes knowing that you're doing the right thing. Who needs a hanging chad when I can get you to punch the right hole without your even knowing it?

The courts have ruled that this type of political activity is protected by the 1st amendment as an exercise of free speech. Fair enough. On the other hand, no one would argue that this promotes fair elections. In fact, anecdotal reports of these mailers in trash bins next to the polling booths suggest that our elections have already been distorted by these mailers. So what to do? We don't live in Singapore, although some may wish we did. In my view, the only antidote to bad free speech is good free speech. So, here's a proposal. 

On the city website, in a section titled "Encinitas Campaign Practices",  let's publish the following 3-item  campaign pledge:
1) I will not allow my name to appear on campaign material which endorses candidates or ballot initiatives with which I do not agree, or whose content I have no knowledge of.
2) I will publicly identify the amount and sources of financing for campaign material on my behalf within 24 hours of the distribution of that material.
3) If I or my supporters publicly attack my opponent's character or conduct, I will either provide supporting evidence for any charges on a campaign website within 24 hours of the attack, or disavow the legitimacy of the attack. I will also allow my opponent to post a response to the attack on my campaign website.

At the start of each election, organizations such as the North County Times,  the Union-Tribune, The Coast News, The Encinitas Tax Payers Association, and The Leucadia Blog can ask each candidate whether they will take or decline the pledge. Everything is voluntary - no arm-twisting. You either take the pledge or you don't. At the least, it will save a tree, and at best it might save an election.

Tough Love

This rewrite was suggested by the Bearded Dragon:

As a candidate or election participant (PAC or major contributor):

1. I shall conduct my campaign for City office openly and fairly. I will not misrepresent, distort, or otherwise falsify the facts in any of my communications nor approve of such tactics by others. Further, I will be prepared to provide supporting evidence for all statements made on my behalf.

2. I shall clearly identify myself, or my campaign committee(s), as the sender of all of all campaign communications. The individual(s) responsible for approving and funding the content of the communications will be clearly identified.

3. I shall openly discuss the issues and participate in fair debate with respect to my views and qualifications. I will focus on the issues in all statements, debates, advertisements, and press releases, and other communications.

4. I will formally request all advocacy groups and PACs--special interests, campaign contributors, or any individual--to respect my dedication to this pledge and to refrain from making independent expenditures on materials which involve unsubstantiated negative or wholly personal attacks on my opponents.

5. Should it be discovered that false or misleading statements have been made in my name, I will issue a retraction and apology in a timely fashion. Any retraction of a false representation will be conspicuous and in the same manner as the initial statement was made. If an third party unauthorized by me has paid for such a breach of this pledge, I promise to immediately and publicly denounce any such activity and will help to identify the responsible parties.

6. I will only accept financial support for my campaign from residents of the City of Encinitas. I will use only unpaid, volunteer campaign workers and canvassers to place signs and go door-to-door. While I welcome a statement of support from any organization, I will reject any offer of financial, logistical, mass mailing, or ground support from any and all non-profit service organizations.

7. I will use local business for all my campaign materials

8. I will not participate in slate mailers. I shall publicly repudiate any and all support derived from any individual or group whose activities would violate this Fair Campaign Pledge.

9. To further public discussion of the issues I will publish all of my mass communications to the (yet-to-be-established) Encinitas campaign clearinghouse website for information and debate for the candidates’ campaigns. I will conspicuously note in all my mass communications that I am participating in the EFC Pledge and will conspicuously display the specific EFP website address on all mass communications where my opponents and I may opt to discuss or respond to each mailer, video, or other mass communications.

10. I will help any and all of my opponents respond to violations of the EFC Pledge by helping them to publish a response, if they desire, by sharing up to 35% of the space/time of my mailings (or other communications) to allow my opponents to response to any attacks until the response has reached an equivalently sized audience as offending communications.

See Also: Campaign Pledge


  1. The concept is flawed by design.

    If a crooked candidate agrees to the pledge, how do you hold them to it? They'll agree to the pledge and then deny violating anything when they do. Look no further than Danny Dalager's promises to do a full accounting and then essentially denying he did anything wrong. He voluntarily pledged to account for his actions and, after failing to act, he denied doing anything wrong.

    My point is the dishonest politician will never think they have violated the pledge and moreover will never admit they did anything contrary to their pledge.

    What authority will determine which actions violate the pledge and which don't? We can't leave it to the politicians or the media. They have trouble with bribes, unreported gifts and loans.

    A pledge will only inhibit an honest person and possibly put them at a disadvantage to their dishonest competitor.

    It will be a waste of time.

  2. Anon 5:44. I can understand your skepticism. However, if we use Dalager as an example, the past election would indicate that he indeed paid a price for his evasions in the court of public opinion. You're absolutely right, there is no enforcement mechanism. The courts have pretty much precluded that, so it seems to me the best alternative is to shine as bright a light on things as we can and let the public decide.

    There will be no authority other than the voters themselves that determines if a candidate has violated the pledge. I agree we can't leave it simply to the politicians or the media, but the pledge can give them both a tool to shed light on unfair campaign practices, for the benefit of the voters.

    I don't see anything in the simple 3-item pledge I offered that would put an honest candidate at a disadvantage. I'm certainly open to suggestions.

  3. It would be wonderful if the candidates would agree to the pledge however doubtful. Stocks Bond and Long all did the same slate mailer two years ago and it worked for Stocks and Bond I can hear them now, why mess with success. It would make for a fine agenda topic and would love to hear Kristins views.

  4. Anon 6:44. You're right, with the current makeup of the council, it's actually unlikely that this can even get onto the agenda, however, I would like to get each candidate on record in this regard. The more public support there is for the concept, the more pressure there will be to at least vote on it.

    My premise in all of this is that the status quo is unacceptable. I simply do not want to go through another election like the last one.

  5. The only way to take down the evil is to expose the evil for their evilness.

    Jerome Stocks is toast, just like the crook. Jerome is the crook.

    special interests including Public Employee unions. Lets ask the GOP what they think about Stocks being in bed with unions. Does Bilbray endorse unions. Does Horn endorse unions? How can the Red Zone continue to support a flaw like Stocks.

    Stocks was the author of 2.7% at 55 for all employees in 2005. He is completely bought by the public employee unions. He has caused more damage to Encinitas future than any flaming liberal in Encinitas history.

    Jerome Stocks has his plate full. You can't call gays are bad, when you gladly take it in the ass by the public employee unions.

    Stocks has his hands and other parts full. He will be fun to see how he tries to shed his communistic ways and stay hole to GOP. Lets ask Bilbray, Horn, Roberts, and DeMayio what they think of the sell out. Lets ask Rand Paul. Jeromes a sell out and needs to go.

    Doc. Lorri- any progress on those term limits for encinitas?

  6. Toughlove,

    Why does the pledge have to be agendized at all? Why does it have to be officially sponsored by city hall?

    There is no disadvantage to a clean politician.

    The public will decided and adjudicate. The candidate pool can cry foul and I'm sure they won't do that unless there is a clear violation.

    The power comes from he public. The public doesn't like the ugly campaigns and will punish those who sign on and lie about following the pledge.

    The pledge should include a mechanism to respond to any violations.

  7. Anon 8:09. An interesting point. You're right, the pledge doesn't need to be agendized. My thought on this was that it needs to engrained in the cultural fabric in some way - part of the DNA of expectations on the part of voters , and that it needs to be concise and in a central location ( the city website ) so anyone can see it. My other thought is that even if it is rejected by the council, I would like to have that on the record, and that act in itself publicizes the pledge.

    I purposely worded the pledge to be as simple as possible, avoiding words like "clear" or "honest" that are subject to interpretation and to avoid disadvantaging the honest candidate. As far as dealing with violations, that is more difficult. My hope is that this is where the media and the candidates themselves take the ball. Again, suggestions would be welcome.

  8. Toughlove,

    You sound like an obsessive poor loser! Give the voters of Encinitas some credit. All of the voters I talked too understood the political games each side played and disregarded (didn't even read) the crap (waste of somebody's money) they recieved in the mail.

    They clearly understood Danny's questionable acts and Kristin received a higher voting percentage than Maggie.

    The voters identified a crook and a star - not bad. Unless, of course you'll never be pleased unless they pick YOUR candidates and understand your values.

    Do something constructive and plant a tree or spend some time with your family.

    Tim Wilson

  9. I say toughluck to toughlove!

  10. Tim, I disagree but would be willing to change my mind.

    The political games distracted everyone from the issues. This is exactly what a candidate with a big war chest and not issues wants.

    What public policy positions makes Kristin a star?

    Do you think that Maggie deserves an A for her public policy work? (dogs and cigarette butts, pension bombs, and debt?)

    Do the voters you talked to know anything about the financial history of the city?

    Are you saying that candidates that put their money into deception and supporters who spend their money on deceptive hit pieces are wasting their money? I don't think so and neither does the council majority.

    If all that stuff is a waste of money then there should be no problem in candidates pledging to stick to the issues and not distort the truth. I'm sure the voters you talked to were turned off by the b.s.

  11. Anon 10:13. A valid point. The voters have spoken, and we should accept their judgment and move on. At the same time, I don't understand the objection to cleaning the process up a bit. What can it hurt? Your friends are probably informed voters which is good. I can tell you that every year we get calls from friends asking us how they should vote, so I know people sometimes vote based on the desire to conform to a group or a candidate they're familiar with. That's the danger in these slate mailers.

    It may be common sense to dismiss these mailers, but if so, why are they so popular? People also know not to cross the street when cross-traffic is flowing, but that doesn't mean an occasional stop sign isn't a good idea.

  12. There is a real problem when one candidate can purchase the "common knowledge" of the public by publishing statements they know are distortions or deceptions, or just plain wrong.

    The library was not on time and on budget. The hall park...

  13. Let's face it, most Encinitans don't pay attention to local politics until election time, unless their neck of the neighborhood is facing some Stocks/Bond mega-development. That is what the troika counted on...until Dalablabber tripped on his own tongue. A pledge is a good idea, kinda like the boy scouts, we all agree to fight fair, that fighting fair is honorable, and that those who don't fight were fairly warned.

  14. One thing I know is that if nothing is done, the next contested election will be just as bad. When it matters is when it will get dirty.

  15. and people call me goofy? signed, GOOFBUSTER.

  16. Still waiting for Dalager to "come clean". His new motto: "Will sharpen for food"....

  17. The Encinitas Taxpayer's Association and Leucadia Blog aren't appropriate to ask questions of the candidates. Both are self appointed and obviously partisan. KC, you bend the facts and eliminate parts of the interview you don't want the viewers to see. You only want your viewers to get your side of the story, and every one who has a different thought gets kicked in the teeth.

    Seriously, the candidates you don't support wouldn't subject themselves to this type of forum. The posters do more lying and distorting than any slate mailer ever did. You all can get real ugly so quit saying how nasty the slates are and get over it.

    It's amazing how you automatically believe that because a voter used a slate mailer to vote that they must have been deceived! Do you think that perhaps they actually believed in what they were voting for?
    Most apathetic people don't
    show up at midterm elections. Give the one's that do show up some credit.
    Every one I talked to that voted told me that if they didn't know enough about the local issues or candidates simply left them blank.
    So, everyone quit crying about the election and move on. The voters have all kinds of information on all the propositions. They get the official information with both sides stated. We will always have stupid voters and always have. We all hope that enough intelligent voters actually vote. Just because your candidates didn't win doesn't mean that it was the wrong thing. The voters of this community voiced their opinion. Accept it and move on.

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  20. First, who said my candidates didn’t win? Why do you think people aren’t accepting the results of the campaign?

    JP and I have both been extremely open about wanting to have multiple views expressed. You must be reacting to what has been said about us rather than the reality. I think it is important to have more community dialogue rather than to have polarized camps of inbreed group think. It seems I’ve even take much heat for publishing reasoned posts from people whom I grossly disagree with on many issues. Andreen’s chambers stuff and Eiler’s Houlihan stuff come to mind. Check the archives.

    Where did we kick anyone’s teeth in for taking a position?

    “KC, you bend the facts and eliminate parts of the interview you don't want the viewers to see.” Why would you write that? Where were facts “bent”? It does me ore the public no good to distort.

    The ETA allowed any candidate to publish unedited any response to the interviews responses. What do you think was eliminated? We’ve gone out of our way to provide something that people know they can use and doing what you say would jeapordize that. Please, examples?

  21. Most entities that ask questions of candidates have explicit agendas. The ETA membership is comprised of very philosophically diverse members. The ETA takes on pretty general and widely supported issues. I have not been self-appointed.

    What do you mean by Partisan? And why to write that? Evidence?

    The commenter on this blog have been ugly. We delete ugly ones and then we are against free expression and partisan… we can’t win on that without a huge effort and we could use some help. On the other hand, I am absolutely not going to say that blogs should be outside the pledge.

    I give credit the voters. Most mailers go in the trash, but enough make an impact that people will put money into that. The pick two mailer was seriously distorted and effective enough that it was sent out twice. BTW, if the pick two were only posted to a blog like this one (where we allow open comments) the public and the candidates would be able to immediately responds to the distortions (for free).

    Also, this pledge is about moving on and helping it so that the future elections are based on substantive (and undistorted) discussion of issues.

    Back to the issue: What do you like or dislike about the suggested pledges.

  22. It sounds like someone is a little sour. JP and KC you guys have been fair. Keep up the good work.

  23. Anon 12:39. I have no problem with Mike Andreen's Wave Blog asking the pledge questions - just as long as they are asked verbatim and the responses are published verbatim. What specifically in the pledge itself do you object to?

  24. Gee,instead of whining and complaining a few people try to come up with suggestions to make elections less nasty and divisive. Shame on them.

  25. KC,

    Since ETA is a taxpayer advocate and educator, why didn't they weigh-in on the only local Prop (P)in Encinitas?

    Not doing so, made their group look like they had an agenda - elect only their candidates for personal reasons (trees, park, etc.).

    How did you vote on Prop P and why?

    Please don't give me advise and then turnaround and not answer this question.

    Very Disappointed,

  26. V.D. Taxpayer,

    I think it's an issue of resources. Why don't you join ETA and contribute time and energy so they can cover more issues?

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  28. I don't think including the candidates participating with ETA and this Blog is appropriate either.
    The postings are out of hand with demeaning comments outside the realm of the issues.
    KC, you might not agree with the comments but you certainly don't need to keep posts up that are sexually demeaning do you? It's abusive and disgusting. I just think it undermines what you are trying to achieve, and as long as the attitude remains, reasonable candidates will hesitate in participating.
    Having an open public forum is the only way we can truly get an accurate view of the candidates. Requiring candidates to participate in something left to interpretation doesn't work for obvious reasons. Keep it public.

  29. 11:41,

    The blog and the ETA are two totally different things.

    Candidate interviews by media and civic groups are a long tradition in American politics at every level.

    Two of the four candidates participated in Encinitas, to the great benefit of the public who learned their positions on many issues that did not get addressed in the forums. One candidate refused to participate because he was clearly opposed to open government and fiscal responsibility. The other candidate refused to participate for unknown reasons, but apparently to avoid having to take a position and/or to avoid revealing her total ignorance on Encinitas issues.

    I thank the ETA for the great service they did in shedding light on the candidates' positions on these extremely important issues.

  30. I voted against P. From what I could see a lot of financial aspects of the whole thing don't make sense. The ETA was looking for and soliciting help in doing the footwork and writing about P. No one stepped up.

  31. The comments are out of hand. There are trolls from DIFFERENT camps that try to ruin the decorum here.

    Read this:

    With the exception of the profanity that JP is not that bothered by, the comments are not that far from what is on the UT or NCTimes. We don't blame the UT for what is in their comments, do we?

    Still I'd rather moderate comments, but that takes a lot of time (volunteers?) and drama of people claiming censorship.

    All the candidates have participated in private and semi-public venues. I've never been to a public forum where candidates had to give a full view of their positions, because the forums have no mechanism for the questioners to follow up on non-responses or responses based on incorrect facts or questionable analysis. That really leaves their position open to interpretation.

    Example: What were the four candidate's plans for pension reform?

  32. I have no problem in supporting all campaigning activity be fully accessible to the general public.

  33. KC,

    Why do you keep complaining about needing support within the ETA - isn't this a large group or is it just a few angry citizens? It sure sounds like the later to me. If that's the case - does such a small group of angry people really represent our citizens?


  34. Tim, your view seems to be that anyone that advocates or organizes for a cause is angry or a crybaby. Is there any form of citizen advocacy you support, or is it just every man for himself?

    The ETA isn't fundamentally a group of disgruntled citizens - they are trying to function as a watchdog to make sure city government is accountable and transparent. When accountability and transparency are lacking, they make noise and ask questions. What's wrong with that?

    Not everyone that cries foul is a crybaby. Sometimes fouls do occur, and I appreciate it when someone calls that to my attention.

  35. Tim,

    Why are you so sensitive about citizens wanting transparency in government?

    Are you a grifter on the city gravy train?

  36. Tim,

    I don't recall complaining (examples?). It seems some anon commenter was complaining and I offered a solution.

    BTW, please take note that I rarely bring up an issue if I'm not ready to suggest and act on producing solutions. The ETA has been both a watchdog and solution oriented. I have not supported everything the ETA has done, but given the current nature of city hall management its important keep pushing for improvements.

    It is the case that only a few people do the policy research beyond their own backyard projects. Is this a surprise for a volunteer organization? Decisions are approved by the board but nothing really matters if the network of citizens behind the ETA don't come to a consensus to act. And they have acted and made big differences.

    One member did volunteer to do the Prop P research (it wasn't me, but I did start the process), who got busy with personal things and didn’t follow through. No one else had time or was willing to do the groundwork on Prop P for various reasons such as prioritizing other issues, having good reason to think that there would be an active pro and con campaign even if the ETA didn't dive in, incorrectly thinking it would never pass, and the biggest was that some board members were for Prop P early on which makes things harder and more risky to do the research if we were looking down at a split decision. There were some very suspicious things coming out of the anti-P camp and that really made some of us reluctant to spend time on that when we could be working on things we understood much better.

    I’m guessing you don’t want to come to an ETA meeting to ask these questions in person?


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