As we approach the final weeks prior to the November elections, the Fair Campaign Practices Committee of Chautauqua County, founded as an independent organization in 2006, wishes to assure the voting public of our unremitting commitment to the preservation of democratic principles in the conduct of political campaigns.
As our title suggests, our singular priority is to assist in assuring that campaigns are conducted with honesty and integrity, devoid of the type of misrepresentation designed to manipulate public opinion. In the present climate of severe public disillusionment with politics and the indiscriminate backlash against government, the FCPC believes it is critical to restore confidence in the political process, one in which political discourse focuses on constructive ideas as opposed to destructive sound bite attacks. The voting public deserves no less - it should be provided with the opportunity to make its voting decisions based on fact and the true positions of the candidates.
Consisting of five community leaders noted for their wide range of public interests and independence, the Fair Campaign Practices Committee believes that it can be instrumental in serving this end by its provision for holding candidates strictly accountable for the conduct of their campaigns. This accountability extends to all levels of the political hierarchy (including Albany), levels that often control campaign materials and financing: candidates should not envision evading responsibility for their campaign messages by claiming that they are beholden to forces on higher political levels.
The FCPC provides an effective way of focusing attention on that accountability by offering candidates a readily available vehicle for the official registering and adjudication of claims against an opponent for alleged unfair campaign practices. Should the Committee confirm the validity of such claims, its critical findings are immediately issued to the news media who have been exceedingly responsive in providing comprehensive coverage as a public service. These findings, most consequentially, have become a matter of the public record on the Internet in addition.
Although the FCPC, it should be noted, does not act as a censor of or scrutinize campaign materials nor act as a body to enforce election law, it has the immense potential power of public opinion at its disposal, one that can optimally serve as a fire-wall against the unfair and improper use of campaign material that conflicts with democratic principles.
In alerting our communities in advance of the election to the nature of our vital role in preserving the proper functioning of our democratic principles, the Fair Campaign Practices Committee aspires to increase the commitment of candidates to conduct their campaigns in accordance with the high standards so many have exemplified in the past. We believe that as we publicize our goals and contribute to an understanding of the means at our disposal to promote to these goals, we can have an increasingly effective positive impact on the conduct of political campaigns.
Further information as to our Principles, Operating Procedures, Official Unfair Campaign Practices Complaint Forms, and Reports of Previous Findings is available at: faircampaignpracticeschautauqua.org.
Lucille Richardson is chair of the Fair Campaign Practices Committee of Chautauqua County.