Campaign Spending Commission - Fair Campaingn Practices (Jean Aoki)
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The Campaign Spending Commission and the Code of Fair Campaingn Practices
We have all read about the Campaign Spending Commission's (CSC) censuring of a couple of candidates for violating the Code of Fair Campaign Practices. Candidates have the option of signing or not signing this code.
Hawaii's Code is almost identical to the code developed by National League. There are 9 principles in Hawaii's code, and the first three read:
Following the last election, two candidates were censured by the CSC for violation of one or more of the principles in the code. Now one of the candidates has filed a suit against the CSC, claiming that the code violated his right to free speech. The candidate seeks to have the censure removed from his file and the Code of Fair Campaign Practices declared unconstitutional.
Both of our daily newspapers came out against the CSC's censures. The Star Bulletin saw it as a violation of candidates' right of freedom of speech. It feels that the Legislature should relieve the commission of any role in evaluating - and censuring - such activity. The theory is, I suppose, that the voters themselves should determine whether candidates are using fair or unfair tactics and vote accordingly.
One of the problems is that most of these negative attacks occur in the last few days of the campaign, and leave no time for the candidates who are attacked to respond adequately. We have had calls from candidates in this predicament asking for help, but we have no such program in place, and even if we had, there would not have been time to do the necessary investigation and research.
The signing of the code is a voluntary act. If a candidate has no intention of honoring the code, he/she should not sign it. According to one of the newspaper articles, these candidates felt pressured to sign the code under the perception that not signing would be held against them by the voters. Apparently they differentiate the act of signing from the adherence to the principals that make up the code.
If candidates are not to be held accountable for violations of the code that they sign, the code becomes a meaningless scrap of paper and we should discard it (the formal paper, not the principles)
We will still respect those who choose to honor those principles. With or without a code, election campaigns should be as clean and positive as possible. As the first principle indicates, it is proper to attack your opponent's record and positions on issues, etc., but one must stick to facts and have the evidence to validate any accusations. One may raise questions, of course, but with the full expectation that the opposition will have the opportunity to respond.
Whether the Campaign spending Commission should retain the responsibility of investigating complaints about violations of the code may be an issue addressed by the Legislature in January. I would like to know the views of our members, so let us hear from you.
If it is to be left to the voters, then voters must learn to distinguish those attacks that are factual and valid from those that are irresponsible accusations meant to mislead. Such an educational campaign, including the promotion of fair campaign practices, would be a worthwhile project for League.