November 1994 Home   Newsletters

December 1994

January 1995

President's Message: "Look at the World through Women's Eyes" (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
League Lands in the Middle of a Highly-Charged Political Dispute
Mayor Jeremy Harris to Address League
Honolulu League Continuing Program 1994-1995
Honolulu League Testifies on Development Plan Amendments (Astrid Monson)
Domestic Violence Film to Be Aired
Learn about League
Education Committee (Marion Saunders)

League Lands in the Middle of a Highly-Charged Political Dispute

The basic purpose of the League of Women Voters is to encourage informed citizen participation in government and politics. In keeping with that mission, in June, 1994 the Honolulu League agreed to provide KGMB weekly evaluations of political ads on TV and in print, covering the mayoral and gubernatorial races. Called "Adwatch," the project was designed to help voters examine political ads critically and obtain useful information in making their choices.

A committee of 15 League members representing different points of view and a variety of political preferences met each Friday to analyze the ads in terms of extensive criteria, including:

§ Whether the ad focused on specific issues or problems and presented the candidate's position and solutions.

§ Whether the issue was relevant to the office sought.

§ Whether the ad provided factual and verifiable information, or was exaggerated or distorted.

§ Whether the ad used words and phrases to trigger emotional reactions rather than to inform.

In the course of its analysis, the committee also often checked primary sources in order to verify its conclusions. Those members who followed Adwatch segments on KGMB will recall that the committee was very disappointed in the shallowness of the ads, most of which did not address issues, but either painted a candidate in a favorable light, endorsed by family and colleagues, or actively attacked an opponent's record or associates, such as the Fasi anti-Mehau ad.

One attack ad run by the Pat Saiki camp late in the campaign impugned Ben Cayetano's record on crime legislation, and accused him of voting against tougher laws for rape. Cayetano's campaign committee requested that the League's Adwatch committee review and comment on the fairness and accuracy of the ad (which the committee would do anyway in the course of its weekly analysis.) Using the State Senate Journal as its source, the committee researched the Saiki accusations regarding Cayetano's voting record and statements on the Senate floor. It found that excerpts of Cayetano's remarks that were used in the ad were quoted out of context and thus distorted what he actually said.

The committee's final report on the matter states: "In hard-fought political battles, negative statements about one's opponent are not uncommon. There is perhaps nothing wrong with pointing out flaws in the other candidates' past records or with what they did or did not do in given situations, or how they voted on specific bills.

"Three standards, however, should be met. One, the allegations should be factual; two, they should tell the whole story and not just parts of it which serve the purpose of discrediting the opposition; three, they should be timed early enough in a campaign to permit rebuttal."

Unfortunately, state senator Mary George, Saiki's campaign manager and a former LWV /Honolulu president, accused the League of abandoning its non-partisan position. In fact, the Adwatch committee spent long hours in an effort to maintain the League's nonpartisan position.

The Adwatch committee analyzed more than 220 TV and print ads over a four month period. Mahalo for a job well done.

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