What This Country Needs: Truth in Political Advertising Laws

Going forward from the most disgusting election campaigns in the lifetime of most living Americans, and quite possibly ever since the establishment of our nation, there are many possible fixes that could get us back on track as the world leader in human rights, democratic principles and protection of the downtrodden, needy and subservient peoples of less developed nations. But most of all, those fixes need to be implemented here, in the US, or our own future could be a bleak as that disgusting confidence man of the ages d trump says the country is now. While a total overhaul of campaign finance laws is vitally needed, taking ALL private money out of elections with all elections publicly financed with candidates put on equal footing regardless of wealth or fundraising prowess, and while some method of shortening election campaigns to a reasonable time period such as occurs


in countries like the United Kingdom should also be an election reform goal, perhaps the most important reform is a consummate, pervasive, federal and state reform effort to require total, absolute TRUTH in ALL campaign advertising.

If they wanted to do it, states could implement it and if they wanted to do it, Congress could do it on a federal level. It would take four elements, and each would have to be absolutely required by law, with significant, overpowering sanctions for breeches.

We’ve all seen the disgusting ads run day and night in the national election. but on the local level, some political advertising has been even worse. Nationally, Democrats and other supporters of Hillary Clinton know that nothing coming forth from the trump campaign is worth having a heart attack over – it is a given that trump ads are lie piled upon lie, disgustingly deceitful, meant to further rally their own base, but that will have little if any impact on Hillary supporters. But on local races where the candidates are much less well known, serious hit pieces can have a major impact. We saw that here in West Covina, CA in the 2015 City Council election when the public safety unions, unhappy over new contract negotiations piled a ton of money into a totally fraudulent and deceitful campaign of lies about our then mayor, who then failed in his re-election bid.

The one ad campaign that has most struck me over the past several weeks has been a thoroughly disgusting campaign of lies and phony inferences made by the gop candidate for the state senate seat in California’s 29th Senate District, against her Democratic opponent. The Democrat running is Josh Newman, but I will not name his miserable opponent whose vile campaign, even in today’s everything goes backdrop, has had TV

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stations pull her ads due to their lies and deceit. That is a far too rare thing, and demonstrates the need for such actions throughout the county on a regular basis, actions that need to be mandated by new campaign truth in advertising laws and regulations.

One example of an ad in the 29th Senate District race is this: The gop candidate called Mr. Newman a "pervert" while
describing the contents of a letter he purportedly sent to a woman the ad described as “someone he wanted to date”. The ad made numerous references to him having used the word “underpants” four times in the letter, alleging that was a perversion on his part. What the ad did not mention was that the women to whom the letter was sent was the brother of the founder and owner of a hugely successful underwear business that had the day before had a large write-up in a local newspaper, praising the outstanding business and its great success. The “underpants” references in the letter related to the business, to the company’s products and to the article.

So, what needs to be done and what can be done? “Can be done” is the hard part, but “need to be done” is easy. It should be a four part process:

1. All political campaigns must be required to state only verifiable facts in their advertising, and in ALL forms of their advertising, be it mailers, door-hangers, or TV ads. This must relate both to the accomplishments and credentials of the candidate him or her self AND to all allegations made about any opponent;

2. All allegations of merit about the candidate and all allegations made for the purpose of discrediting an opponent would be required to have included as backup material documented verification of the truth of all such allegations. So, if a candidate says he made $500 Million in 2014, he would HAVE to include his federal tax return as evidence. If he said he was a Major in the US Army and received the Bronze Star, he would HAVE to include documentation from the US Army. If he said he graduated from the Wharton School of Business, he would HAVE to include his diploma. If he alleged that his opponent had committed a crime, proof of a criminal conviction would HAVE to be included. If he said his opponent lied about any single point, he would HAVE to include verifiable documentation, such as audio and/or video demonstrating the statement or a writing of the opponent, AND similar verification of its lack of truthfulness;

3. Each and every media outlet would have an independent duty to verity the truthfulness of each such fact and documentation, and in failing to do so or in publishing any such item

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that in fact is determined to not be truthful, would face significant sanctions. Fines in the millions of dollars would be appropriate, and for a second or third offense, a media outlet such as a television station or network should have its license suspended, and for an additional failure, have its license revoked. In the case of mailers or door-hangers and the like,
significant fines directly against the campaign must be levied, on the local and state level in the thousands of dollars to the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and on the national level in the millions of dollars. For repeated violations, suspensions of campaigning would not be out of line or otherwise inappropriate; and

4. Independent commissions must be set up around the country to both monitor such political advertising and to investigate all complaints received from any source, sources which would likely include opposing campaigns, members of the public, and honest media outlets who see their competitors failing to follow the new laws and regulations. Member of these commissions and their enforcement mechanisms would ultimately be paid for through the fines levied and received for violations of the new laws, but also, certainly at the outset, through surcharges levied on all persons filing to run for office.

Without such reforms, just how much worse might it be the next time around?

About theHoundDawg

For many years as a lawyer, I saw much of the good and bad of society, and did what I could to right many wrongs. The lack of understanding of what is good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust, as evidenced by such events as the election of King W as president, (who as such far surpassed the evil of richard nixon but not quite that of ronald reagan) lead me in a new direction, to spend my time trying to understand what is happening to our society, to try as best I can to spread my insights to others, and along the way to maybe even eke out a living through the internet.
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