Once our public officials are in office, we demand accountability, full disclosure and transparency.
We record their votes and publish their statements. We post their salaries online.
Yet there’s almost no oversight over the candidates for these positions before they take office.
Candidates can say whatever they want under the right of free speech. They can selectively withhold information about their backgrounds, social media posts or business dealings that they deem potentially harmful to their ability to raise money and get votes. And the only penalty for getting caught, so far, is embarrassment.
We all know by now about downstate Congressman George Santos’ campaign lies.
Closer to home, Jeff Moore, a Republican candidate for Schenectady City Council, was forced to withdraw from the race this week after his social media posts revealed conspiracy theories and inappropriate viewpoints on Islam, the LGBTQ+ community, mass shootings and the Holocaust.
Moore said he simply didn’t volunteer the posts when he applied to run for office. And city GOP Chairman Matt Nelligan said he didn’t bother to check. He only learned about the posts from our reporter, who actually took the time to scroll through Moore’s social media accounts.
If you believe Nelligan that he didn’t know about the posts, despite being aware that Moore was a prolific poster, then it’s a case of irresponsibility to the voters.
In the Santos case, some GOP leaders reportedly knew about his lies and kept quiet about them just so he’d get elected. That’s more than irresponsible; it’s blatant fraud.
The major parties are registered in the state, and as such should be responsible for who they put on the ballot under their banner.
They need to be more vigorous in vetting their candidates, perhaps by forcing them to confirm the veracity of their biographies and to share links to all past social media posts.
Require them all to fill out a detailed questionnaire and sign a pledge declaring it to be truthful.
Maybe have someone in the party do a more detailed check on new candidates. Read their social media posts to verify their education and business backgrounds.
Then post the questionnaires on websites for the party and candidates so the public can identify and report any errors, omissions or falsehoods.
The parties can’t rely on the media or the opposing party to do this legwork for them, although both could be doing a better job questioning these candidates about their credentials.
The candidate running on a party line carries that party’s endorsement. It’s the party’s obligation to make sure their candidates are legitimate.
The details can be worked out later. The point is that the parties need to take action now to restore voter confidence in the electoral process.
We hold our elected officials to high standards once they’re in office. We need to hold them to the same high standards before they get there.
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Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Opinion, Schenectady