Bob Van Oosterhout

The Clean Politics Act: A Draft Ballot Proposal for States
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click here to download Clean Politics Act in MS Word Format

The Clean Politics Act: A Draft Ballot Proposal for States

 Introduction:

The political atmosphere in the United States has become so polluted that it is beginning to choke and stifle our democracy. Political pundits routinely evaluate the prospects of candidates, not according to their qualifications or experience, but on their ability to raise money and smear their opponents. Achieving high political office has become less a matter of cream rising to the top than how deep into the mud one is willing to sink.

 In virtually every employment situation except politics, candidates are required to present a clear, factual, and verifiable accounting of qualifications and experiences. A responsible employer carefully screens and evaluates applicants according to their potential to effectively carry out the duties and responsibilities of the position. No one who applies for a job is able to design his or her own selection process, and anyone who presents misleading information is eliminated from consideration.

 Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on political campaigns but very little of the efforts funded with those vast sums actually helps the average voter make clear and intelligent decisions about who is most qualified to best represent their interests. The stated purpose of political commercials is to form attitudes about candidates that are immune to discussion and debate. Psychological research shows that negative attitudes are more resistant to change than positive ones. Manipulation, distortion, and diversion have become the most effective campaign tactics. Candidates who are most divisive have been more likely to succeed than those who have a passion to unite and inspire our citizens. It is any wonder why Congress cannot legislate effectively?

 People who are most likely to be elected to political office are those who have or can raise significant amounts of money and are most effective in their efforts to make their opponents look bad. Those who retain office are often those who are most effective at pleasing special interest lobbyists who provide significant funding for political campaigns. These abilities have absolutely no relationship to qualities of leadership, debate, planning, or problem solving required to manage government. Our election process simply makes no sense in terms of selecting the wisest and most qualified leaders. It is a house of cards built with thousand-dollar bills.

 The Clean Politics Act brings to politics the same procedures and accountability that exist for employees in successful enterprises. Politicians say they work for the people. It’s time that we become more effective in hiring and supervising our employees.


The Clean Politics Act

Draft Ballot Proposal for States

 

The purpose of this act is restore fairness, honesty, and accountability to elected government and to insure that decisions made by public officials elected in the State of _____ represent careful consideration of the needs and concerns of all citizens.

 Article I

Every candidate listed on an electoral ballot in the State of _____ must take an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in all matters related to politics and governing, from the moment they file to be listed on the ballot until they complete their term of office. This oath requires that no candidate or office holder either make, approve, or endorse statements or advertisements that mislead or misrepresent what is known to be true, factual, and verifiable. Candidates who are convicted of violating this oath shall be considered guilty of perjury and will become ineligible for elected office in or from the State of _____. Office-holders who are convicted of violating this oath shall be considered guilty of perjury and will be required to immediately resign from the office to which they have been elected.

 

Article II

A non-partisan/bi-partisan Fair Elections Board will be appointed by a bipartisan committee of the Legislature composed of an equal number of the members of each party who have demonstrated bi-partisan cooperation. The Fair Elections Board will create and implement an interview process for all candidates for State and national office listed on the ballot in the State of _____. All candidates will be required to participate in every aspect of the interview process and must provide all documentation and records requested in order to have their name validated for the final ballot. Every aspect of the interview process will be made available to the public as soon as possible after each step is complete.

 The interview process shall include but will not be limited to:

-A complete resume including employment history, work record, accomplishments and volunteer and charitable activity as well as documentation of any significant ethical or legal lapses in the candidates work or financial history.

-A written description of the political philosophy and management style of the candidate along with an outline of the basic values and priorities that may affect decision-making. This must include an evaluation of the extent to which past political decisions made by the candidate are consistent with the stated values, priorities, and principles.

-Complete tax records for seven years prior to the election date.

-An assessment of personal traits and professional experience which would play a role in carrying out public duties along with an assessment of the decision-making, communication, planning, and problem-solving skills, approaches, and management style of the candidate.

-Standardized multiple choice and essay examinations along with personal interviews to assess the candidates understanding of:

----The structure and operations of national, State, and local government.

----Basic economic theory including factors that influence State and national economic issues.

----Current and anticipated State, national, and international political issues including the relevant history of these issues and who is affected by them.

----Basic theory of debate and argumentation including the ability to recognize and identify strategies and techniques that can be used to mislead or avoid the truth and those that stimulate honest debate which leads to increased understanding and awareness of relevant issues.

----Effective approaches to decision-making and problem solving including strategic and tactical planning.

----The candidates must prepare all written statements without outside assistance. All assessments will be recorded under supervision in a secure area. Notes and outside contact during assessments are prohibited.

 -Non-partisan/bi-partisan teams who have significant documented expertise in each of the respective areas will conduct interviews and assessments.

-Interviews will also be conducted by groups of stakeholders who have significant interests in issues that could be affected by the officeholder.

-Candidates are required to respond completely to all questions in every aspect of the interview process, including follow-up questions.

-Candidates will be assessed and evaluated by interviewers according to their ability to honestly and accurately respond to all questions. These assessments will be make public.

-Candidates will have no input or influence regarding how the interview process is carried out.

 

Article III

All advertising which may affect the outcome of election of candidates for political office from the State of _____ must present clear, factual, and easily verifiable information that is not misleading or taken out of context. Information that is controversial or not easily verifiable must be clearly stated as such. All political advertising must be designed to assist the voter in making informed, balanced decisions regarding candidates who best represent their interests.

All advertisement containing material related to political candidates or issues shall be screened and evaluated by a non-partisan fact-checking organization and rated accordingly before it is aired or distributed. A statement of the evaluation will appear in a highly visible manner (if the advertisement is visual) and be clearly stated so that anyone viewing or hearing the ad will be informed of the accuracy and fairness of its contents. All costs of this evaluation process shall be paid by the advertiser.

 One of the two following statements will appear and or be clearly stated with each advertisement: (1) “This advertisement presents an accurate portrayal of the issues” or (2) This advertisement interferes with making a balanced and informed decision because it (a) presents an unbalanced and biased presentation of the issues and/or (b) is misleading and/or (c) contains false or unverifiable information. If any part of an advertisement contains content that fits the description for 2 a, b, and/or c as described above, those statements must appear or be aired with the advertisement and the advertizer must provide information where viewers can access a more balanced view of the issue or candidate supported.

 

Article IV

 

A professional lobbyist is defined as anyone who earns more than $5000 per year for activity that could influence political decisions. All professional lobbyists must register with the State and provide information regarding their income and a detailed description of the interests they serve. Any contact between a professional lobbyist and an officeholder elected in the State of _____ must be recorded and made available to the public.

 Professional lobbyists must provide a public outline of their argument to influence the decision of an officeholder elected in the State of _____ for every contact with that officeholder or their representatives. This outline will be made available to the public within 24 hours of all contact between an officeholder or his or her representatives and professional lobbyist.

All officeholders elected in the State of _____ must publicly announce all contacts with professional lobbyists and set aside equal time to that spent with professional lobbyists to obtain information from individuals or groups who may oppose the position of those professional lobbyists. These times must be announced to the public and coincide closely with the time allotted for meeting with professional lobbyists.

 Professional lobbyists must provide a true and accurate accounting of all expenses related to their effort to influence the decisions of an officeholder elected in the State of _____.

 Professional lobbyists who fail to meet the requirements of this section will be fined an amount equal to their annual income from all lobbying efforts.

 No former officeholder who was been elected in the State of _____ or staff member employed by an officeholder elected in the State of _____ may receive income, financial or otherwise, to lobby or influence the votes of members of a legislative body to which they were elected or appointed.

 

Article V

 All officeholders elected in the State of _____ shall provide a written summary documenting their vote on each piece of legislation that comes to a vote in the body to which they have been elected. This summary shall include a description of their reasons for supporting or opposing the legislation, how this legislation might serve the common good, an outline of the values and priorities upon which their vote was based, anticipated short and long-term effects of the legislation, and a list of stakeholders who may be affected positively and negatively by the legislation. These summaries shall be made available to the public within 48 hours of the vote.