Election Ethics

During this election, there were a number of ethics issues that surfaced. These issues are not easy to address, but they are important.

At the 6/13/2006 Central Committee Meeting of the San Diego Democratic Party, I plan to make a motion to establish a ethics subcommittee to investigate complaints and to make a recommendation to the plenary meeting with regard to the current election and perhaps more importantly, what can be put into place in terms of policy and procedure to avoid a repeat of these embarrassing outcomes.

My comments in support of the motion follow:

Our democratic system is seriously threatened, threatened by a loss of integrity. Is it okay for a candidate to cheat in the vote counting, that is stuff the ballot box, to get elected? Obviously we agree, No. But, is it less of an ethical concern if the candidate is a Democrat? Or, is it ok to be just deceptive or slanderous? Perhaps it is less of a concern if the candidate is a minority, a woman, or a gay? I hope not.

What about taking snippets out of context and claiming they are the actual position of the opposing candidate? That's what the Republicans did to Francine Busby. I hope the Democratic party would not stoop to those levels to win, but I understand that sometimes it is tempting.

Is it okay to make representations that are all true, but when combined in an ad, give a completely different impression to the listener? That is deceptive at the least. It is something that people expect from politicians, and unfortunately, they blame the Democrats for it as much as the Republicans. And again, it happened in this election.

I have to say, I was a bit embarrassed to hear the negative and likely deceptive ads prepared by Steve Westly. They went to support the claims of the numerous republicans in my area that claim that the Democrats are just as sleazy as the republicans.

Worse yet, we were embarrassed as Democrats to hear about deceptive biographical claims and outright threatening and violent behavior, by local candidates, to the extent of cornering a woman in her car and riding on the hood. Those performing the threats apparently were seen stealing signs of their opponents, and this was forwarded to the Sheriffs detectives and to the FBI. Now, the district is being asked to support a democratic candidate that they know is at a minimum deceptive, and perhaps criminal. As a leader in the East County, I cannot, in good conscience, ask our members to support a candidate who has exhibited such behavior. I don't care if he is a Democrat or not, and I don't care what his sexual orientation is.

Is it a crime to visit a candidate's home to talk or drive by? Not at all. We call on Democrats all the time in our precincts asking for support. So, why would a candidate corner another volunteer, and why would they mount the hood of the car for a joy ride? This is difficult to explain unless the candidate really was stealing signs, as was asserted earlier, and they felt extremely defensive of their position. My mouth is still hanging open in disbelief.

It is not my intention to attempt to resolve these ethical concerns or speak for one side or the other. But, I think we can agree that these events were highly problematic for a party that is trying to return to power. We can't risk this sort of exposure that will be clearly leveraged by our opposition for all it is worth.

I assert that it is this body, the Democratic Party Central Committee that must take the responsibility for cleaning house and making sure that our party is linked with ethical conduct during the election process. So far, it seems the body would prefer to ignore these concerns and hope they will go away on their own. It might wish to suggest that the California Party is responsible while they do the same, putting the responsibility right back here. It is a difficult task, but I assert that this is perhaps the most important task of this body, a task that is certainly its responsibility, and a task that must be done now.

How should it be tackled? First, I suggest that a ethics subcommittee be established to deal with complaints during the election process. Citizens and candidates with complaints of any type should be able to present them to that committee and have them fairly examined. Criminal behavior would obviously be forwarded to the authorities. No winner of primaries should be embraced and endorsed until those issues are examined and decided. If unethical behavior is clearly the case, the candidate should be reprimanded at least and perhaps as an ultimate step, asked to step aside.

A provision exists in the process of the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party, the so-called Tom Metzger rule, that will allow a candidate endorsement to be withheld. This rule exists for a reason, and this body should suggest that it be employed if criminal behavior exists.

That committee should immediately review these actions during the primary, particularly in the 52nd district where that unbelievable behavior occurred. The goal of this second phase will be to suggest changes in policy and procedure to reduce the chance that such unethical claims and behavior can occur.

Until it is resolved, I cannot in good conscience ask our club members to endorse the Democratic candidate in that district. Duncan Hunter might be the better choice. This action is essential to maintaining a level of integrity the public wants to see returned in our elections. An ethics committee is a common step, and exists in the House, Senate, and other bodies. I suggest it is an appropriate and fair step to take.

-- Raymond Lutz - 14 Jun 2006
Topic revision: r2 - 2013-02-25, RaymondLutz
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