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Are All Politics Dirty?

Politics is what one has to go through to get to Government. You might say it is the road that leads to seeing your vision for your community-whether that be a neighborhood association, municipal utilities district, city, school district, county, state or nation-put into place. And politics is something we love to hate.

I was in a meeting recently when one member of the group said, “I just hate all the dirty politics.” I asked what she considered “dirty politics.” When she had no answer I asked her if a comparison advertisement that compares one candidate to another such as voting record, community involvement, education and the like would qualify as “dirty politics?” She replied that in her opinion it would.

Another member of the group said he thought comparison ads were fair game as long as they are honest. Then he reminded the group of a cowardly and dishonest anonymous letter that was sent out during a recent Sugar Land race smearing a candidate with thinly veiled bigotry and racism. The group agreed that the letter qualified as dirty politics in several ways. First, the author and whoever may have helped send it weren’t courageous enough to put their names on it. Second, the content of the letter was misleadingand dishonest. Finally, the letter personally attacked the candidate. The sad thing about that incident is that Sugar Land is really better than that.

Most people do not take the time or know how to really research candidates in elections. And it is impossible for a candidate to meet every voter in his voting area. That leaves political advertising. Whether it is a newspaper advertisement, radio or television ad or a direct mail piece, the candidate must introduce himself and, often, differentiate himself from the other candidates. We all agree, I think, that saying something that is untrue about your opponent would be dishonest and “dirty politics.”

Comparison ads, however, if done honestly can actually educate the voter. Let’s say you are a candidate for a position. You have lived in the voting district for 28 years. Your opponent moved into the district in order to run 6 months ago. Is it fair to compare the years you have lived there to the time your opponent has lived there? I think it is fair because it is a provable fact. Or perhaps you have voted in the Primary Election of a particular party for 20 years. Your opponent has never voted in that Party’s Primary election but claims to be a staunch member of that Party. Would it be fair to point that out? Again, I think it is because your voting record is public information. While we cannot know for whom you voted we can know that you voted.

I think we can all agree that candidates who use comparison ads should compare themselves with their opponents honestly. But what if a candidate is dishonest about whom they are?In a recent race in Fort Bend County one candidate claimed to be a conservative, even telling some people she was a Republican. A check of the Texas Ethics Commission website and the Federal Elections Commission website showed that this “conservative” had contributed thousands of dollars to President Barack Obama, thousands of dollars to the Fort Bend Democratic Party, thousands more to Democratic Clubs and a whopping $15,000 to Emily’s List- the organization dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic Women. One wonders how the prominent Pro-Life Catholic Republicans who supported her felt when this information was discovered? The voters would probably not know about this hypocrisy were it not for political advertising.

The General Elections are to be held November. Traditionally the campaign season begins after Labor Day. As your mailbox begins to fill up with political mail take the time to look at the pieces. Decide for yourself if the information appears honest, useful and appropriate. When you receive a comparison advertisement look at the comparisons. Are they comparing relevant facts? Do they cite the source of the information?