Let the search for truth begin

All of the people who want to run for the U. S. Senate, Congress, state legislative seats, and state Auditor have gotten their names on the big list at the Secretary of State’s office. Now the real campaigns begin.

Before we achieve the blessed silence of early November, we will be assaulted and probably insulted by all manner of commercials and ads and claims and counter-claims. Our sales department cringes when we tell people, “The worst think you can do is base your judgment on a 30-second commercial.”

Remember this: The federal Communications Commission says radio and television stations cannot censor commercials from any “legally qualified candidate although they can run a disclaimer ahead of the commercial if the commercial is so far outside the lines that it is likely to offend listeners.

We are not likely to be as jarred by any political commercials this year as we were in 1980 when Barry Commoner ran for the Presidency on the Citizens Party ticket and began a commercial with BS (the actual word), asserting that “Carter, Regan, and Anderson, it’s all BS.”

But already there have been commercials running on KMBZ in Kansas City by Glenn Miller of Springfield, who says he’s a write-in candidate for the U.S. Senate. The Kansas City Star on Monday ran a story describing his commercials as having “racially biased and anti-Semitic claims.” The Southern Poverty Center says he’s a white supremacist and a former paramilitary organizer.

In other words, there is little the radio and television stations you listen to can do to limit such expressions for the next seven-plus months.

It’s a good idea to question political advertising, particularly any ad by one candidate that tries to tell you what the opponent’s position is. Painting a negative portrait of an opponent is a time-honored practice in politics.

How can you figure out what is true? Several ways. The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania has a solid track record of analyzing political ads. You might enjoy reading an updated article on its web page: “False Ads: There Oughta be a Law!—or Maybe Not.”

You’ll also hear a lot of ads questioning the voting records or public positions of candidates. One useful source for tracking the real voting records and the positions of candidates is Project Vote Smart.

These folks are great at tracking key votes. They ask candidates every two years to take their survey that asks their positions on issues. Many candidates do not respond. Why? Because their advisers or their political parties tell them not to respond to such surveys because opponents might be able to use the information against them.

That’s a real tribute to political courage and openness with the voting public isn’t it?

Newspapers and some television stations run Truth Check programs on the air, on their pages, and on their webpages.

We’ll be directly questioning candidates when we can about many of their claims and we’ll be in tough with a couple of the state’s leading political analysts, as usual, during this campaign to bring you the straight stuff as much as we can.

Filing is over. Now the campaigns really begin. We’ll try to help you cut through the BS. But voters should do their part, too, by locating sources that work for truth in advertising that the Federal Communications Commission does not require of our political candidates.

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