Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fair Elections

America has always praised itself for fair and square elections! In truth elections have been stolen quite regularly by nasty and crooked sources who managed to come up with schemes that are sometime illegal and sometimes unfair and untruthful – and sometimes both!
by Charlie Leck
In the 2012 election in the Minnesota Senate District in which I live the Republican endorsed candidate for the Minnesota Senate – a wonderful, young woman for whom I voted – was robbed of the election on the day before the vote was to take place. Our mailboxes out here were stuffed with gaudy pamphlets and fliers that told numerous lies about the young lady and wildly distorted and twisted even the facts. She was a certain favorite to win the election and she lost by a slim margin to the “independent” who was running – all because of this erroneous and untruthful information. All my readers are aware that I am a long-time and loyal Democrat and I rarely vote on the other side of the ticket. On this occasion I did and feel like I was cheated. A dirty and distasteful group of radical conservatives (who love to sing their patriotic songs and speak of God and flag) very unfairly swiped this Minnesota Senate seat.
And, to top it off, there was no attribution on these deceitful flyers as to who was responsible for making the charges and distributing these materials.
I’ve run a number of political campaigns and they were hard and tough campaigns, but we always attempted to tell the truth and we always stated carefully who we were as a campaign organization and how we could be contacted. It’s just the way it ought to be done. We understand that financial spending limits were placed on the campaign and we always stayed within those limits.
“Drops,” as we call them, the night before election, which tell lies and untruthfully smear a candidate, are disgusting. The disgust is even increased where there is no information about the persons or organization telling the lies.
The Governor of Minnesota is now supporting a bill in the legislature that would demand more protection is such advertising. He wants groups that spend money on such advertising to be required to report that spending. He wants to put a stop to small loop-holes that allow clearly political advertising and endorsement to be called something other than political.
Come on! If you say something about a political candidate you ought to be held responsible for what you say and you ought to be required to indicate how much money you’ve spent on such a clearly political promotion.
Hold on to your hats because you are going to be surprised at who opposes such current legislation – the National Rifle Association and Minnesota Citizens for Life. They contend that such legislation limits “freedom of speech.” Have we not learned that there are certain limits to the free speech provisions in the constitution? You can not unfairly and untruthfully liable a person! You must take responsibility for what you say!
You know who else opposes the Governor’s suggested legislation to expand what is defined as political advertising? Oh, well, my, my, if it isn’t the fellow who won the state senate race in our district in 2012.
The League of Women Voters Minnesota (LWV Minnesota) supports such an expansion of the definition of “political advertising and promotion.” The following is taken from the organization’s December 2013 statement on the issue.
“Evaluating disclosure laws for independent spending in the 50 states, a watchdog group has given Minnesota an ‘F’ because of limitations in the state’s disclosure laws. But even with limited disclosure requirements, campaign finance records reveal that independent spenders – representing special interests – have stepped up their spending in Minnesota by billions of dollars in the wake of Citizens United. In 2012, for instance, groups independent of the candidates spent $4,200,853 more than the candidates themselves on literature and advertisements. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“With so much money pouring into elections advertisements, billboards and literature, improved transparency is vital. The reforms recommended by League of Women Voters Minnesota focus on measures that would provide greater disclosure so that voters know who is trying to influence the outcome of elections. Voters can then hold their elected officials accountable if the laws they enact tend to reflect the interests of financial contributors rather than the public interest.
“LWV Minnesota advocates these immediate reforms in Minnesota’s campaign finance systems:
1.       Broaden the category of communications requiring disclosure to those that clearly seek to influence voters even though the ads do not use the so-called magic words such as ‘vote for’ or ‘defeat.’ Specifically:

    ▪ Widen the definition of ‘express advocacy,’ and
    ▪ Require disclosure of ‘electioneering communications’

2.      Improve the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board’s website to provide easy and timely accessibility for a citizen seeking to learn about donations and expenditures in statewide election.
“If Minnesota does not make these improvements in its disclosure requirements and practices, our state fails to keep pace with the manner in which elections campaigns are conducted in the 21st century, and our elected officials do a disservice to themselves and the voters of the state.”
LWV Minnesota is one of the most widely respected organizations in the state of Minnesota and it takes such positions, as the above, with great care and concern. Minnesota’s legislators should pay heed.
I hope, if you are a Minnesotan, that you will urge your legislators to do the same.


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