During this election, there were a number of ethics issues that surfaced. These issues are not easy to address, but they are important.
At the 6/13/2006 Central Committee Meeting of the San Diego Democratic Party, I plan to make a motion to establish a ethics subcommittee to investigate complaints and to make a recommendation to the plenary meeting with regard to the current election and perhaps more importantly, what can be put into place in terms of policy and procedure to avoid a repeat of these embarrassing outcomes.
My comments in support of the motion follow:
Our democratic system is seriously threatened, threatened
by a loss of integrity. Is it okay for a candidate to cheat
in the vote counting, that is stuff the ballot box, to get elected? Obviously we agree,
No. But, is it less of an ethical concern if the candidate
is a Democrat? Or, is it ok to be just deceptive or
slanderous? Perhaps it is less of a concern if the
candidate is a minority, a woman, or a gay? I hope not.
What about taking snippets out of context and claiming they
are the actual position of the opposing candidate? That's
what the Republicans did to Francine Busby. I hope the
Democratic party would not stoop to those levels to win,
but I understand that sometimes it is tempting.
Is it okay to make representations that are all true, but
when combined in an ad, give a completely different
impression to the listener? That is deceptive at the least.
It is something that people expect from politicians, and
unfortunately, they blame the Democrats for it as much as
the Republicans. And again, it happened in this election.
I have to say, I was a bit embarrassed to hear the negative
and likely deceptive ads prepared by Steve Westly. They
went to support the claims of the numerous republicans in
my area that claim that the Democrats are just as sleazy as
Worse yet, we were embarrassed as Democrats to hear about
deceptive biographical claims and outright threatening and
violent behavior, by local candidates, to the extent of
cornering a woman in her car and riding on the hood. Those
performing the threats apparently were seen stealing signs
of their opponents, and this was forwarded to the Sheriffs
detectives and to the FBI. Now, the district is being asked
to support a democratic candidate that they know is at a
minimum deceptive, and perhaps criminal. As a leader in the
East County, I cannot, in good conscience, ask our members
to support a candidate who has exhibited such behavior. I
don't care if he is a Democrat or not, and I don't care
what his sexual orientation is.
Is it a crime to visit a candidate's home to talk or drive
by? Not at all. We call on Democrats all the time in our
precincts asking for support. So, why would a candidate
corner another volunteer, and why would they mount the hood
of the car for a joy ride? This is difficult to explain
unless the candidate really was stealing signs, as was
asserted earlier, and they felt extremely defensive of
their position. My mouth is still hanging open in
It is not my intention to attempt to resolve these ethical
concerns or speak for one side or the other. But, I think
we can agree that these events were highly problematic for
a party that is trying to return to power. We can't risk
this sort of exposure that will be clearly leveraged by our
opposition for all it is worth.
I assert that it
is this body, the Democratic Party Central Committee that
must take the responsibility for cleaning house and making
sure that our party is linked with ethical conduct during
the election process. So far, it seems the body would
prefer to ignore these concerns and hope they will go away
on their own. It might wish to suggest that the California Party is responsible while they do the same, putting the responsibility right back here.
It is a difficult task, but I
assert that this is perhaps the most important task of this
body, a task that is certainly its responsibility, and a task that must be done now.
How should it be tackled? First, I suggest that a ethics
subcommittee be established to deal with complaints during
the election process. Citizens and candidates with
complaints of any type should be able to present them to
that committee and have them fairly examined. Criminal
behavior would obviously be forwarded to the authorities.
No winner of primaries should be embraced and endorsed
until those issues are examined and decided. If unethical
behavior is clearly the case, the candidate should be
reprimanded at least and perhaps as an ultimate step, asked
to step aside.
A provision exists in the process of the Executive Board of the California
Democratic Party, the so-called Tom Metzger rule, that will allow a candidate endorsement to be withheld.
This rule exists for a reason, and this body should suggest that it be employed if criminal behavior exists.
That committee should immediately review these
actions during the primary, particularly in the 52nd
district where that unbelievable behavior occurred.
The goal of this second phase will be to suggest changes in policy and procedure to
reduce the chance that such unethical claims and behavior can occur.
Until it is resolved, I
cannot in good conscience ask our club members to endorse
the Democratic candidate in that district. Duncan Hunter
might be the better choice. This action is essential to maintaining a level of
integrity the public wants to see returned in our
elections. An ethics committee is a common step, and exists in the House, Senate, and other bodies.
I suggest it is an appropriate and fair step to take.
-- Raymond Lutz
- 14 Jun 2006