As we wind down to Election Day 2020 this is the season to talk about truth in political advertising. I started my research on-line looking for “Truth in Advertising” and immediately found about 748,000,000 results. I narrowed the search to “Truth in Political Advertising” and immediately found only 198,000,000 results. This would indicate that I am not the only citizen with a concern for truth in political advertising.
I scanned through the first couple of results and came to the conclusion there is no truth required in political advertising because that would infringe on the speaker’s First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech. Wondering where terms like “libel” and “slander” enter into this picture, I hope my immediate conclusion was wrong or at least missing something, but somehow I don’t think so. Thinking back to when I was a kid, my Dad would say that my freedom to swing my fist stopped somewhere short of the other kid’s nose. Shouldn’t a similar principal be considered with Freedom of Speech?
The truth in political advertising concern came to light in a couple of local State Senate campaigns. There are examples of questionable statements in political advertising, or political communications, “everywhere” these days; not just local legislative elections.
In the 32nd State Senate District, Republican candidate Dan Kapanke’s opponent has blatantly misspoken about Kapanke’s positon on pre-existing conditions and healthcare. Dan Kapanke has a long and strong record showing a concern for pre-existing conditions and healthcare. There is another misleading advertisement about Dan Kapanke and improvements to Copeland Park. These allegations first surfaced in the 2010 Congressional campaign and in 2011 the Government Accountability Board cleared Kapanke of any wrong doing on this matter. Where is the truth in political advertising?
In the 24th State Senate District which stretches from Sparta and Tomah to Wisconsin Rapids and Stevens Point the challenger has faulted the incumbent, State Senator Pat Testin, for giving all that money to Foxxcon! The challenger speaks of better uses for the taxpayer money than giving it to a foreign corporation. There was no money given to Foxxcon; it was a tax credit! Apparently the challenger went to the same economics classes as AOC, the ultra-liberal Congresswoman from New York City that expressed the same incompetence or ignorance concerning tax credits! Tax credits are given when economic activity is generated so people are employed or goods and services are purchased which, in turn, all generate additional tax revenues. Where is the truth in political advertising?
Another example was the mailers generated by an out-of-state PAC which attacked a Republican Congressional candidate for using her maiden name when she signed the Recall Petition for Governor Walker about a decade ago. Since she wasn’t married then, I wonder what name she was supposed to have signed.
Then, we can briefly mention the Democratic candidate for President, Joe Biden. He had to stop his first campaign for President in 1987 because he was caught plagiarizing having used the words of a British Labour Party politician. Other examples soon followed. He had been accused of plagiarism in law school. In 1987 Biden’s campaign also faced claims of hyperbole and imprecision. More than three decades later in the current campaign for President the Biden campaign acknowledged that it had lifted phrases on climate and education from various places without properly citing the sources. This information comes from a Jun 5th, 2019 Washington Post article by Neena Satija, just one of about 13,600 results when I researched “Joe Biden Plagiarism” on-line. In reading this article to the very end one finds informative comments of the differences in political communications between the late 1980s and today.
Voters should elect Dan Kapanke in the 32nd State Senate District and re-elect Pat Testin in the 24th State Senate District and then early in 2021 write each a letter asking and sharing your thoughts about “Where is the truth in political advertising?”