Ignore Politicians' Sleazy Ads--Get the Facts

by Aaron Brock

As an employer, ask yourself a few questions about the workers you will hire in just a few days. What do you know about their backgrounds and previous experience?
You want a good job? Expect to fill out a detailed job application. You'll also be expected to show up for an interview to answer questions about how you'll handle it if you're hired.

That is, unless you're a politician.

Unfortunately, the information on which most voters base their election decisions--or hire some of the country's most important employees--is rooted in 30-second television ads and issueless campaign commercials that reveal nothing about the way these potential employees will handle their very important jobs, if elected.

Our Founding Fathers would turn over in their graves. Those men and women who make and implement the laws we must all abide by are hired based on a few seconds of rhetoric, a party affiliation and a smile, when they ought to face the most rigorous job screening process available.

This is dangerous stuff. How do we know these people are qualified to lead the country? Or to represent our own unique point of view on the issues crucial to us? Would you hire a plumber to fly a plane? Or would you hire a pilot to fly that plane without knowing how well he or she can land it?

In Maryland, neither leading candidate for Governor bothered to answer a simple Project Vote Smart questionnaire--showing a shocking disdain for voters.

The multitude of consultants, pollsters and spin-doctors chiefly in control of today's elections manipulate American citizens into voting for the cookie-cutter caricatures of their candidates, instead of for people who are willing to tell you how they'll deal with the tough issues on your behalf. These handlers urge their candidates to target voters with well-tested campaign messages which reveal as little substantive information about their issue positions as possible.

Not only is this sleazy trend a blatant attack on progressive self-governance, but it also makes it impossible for citizens to make prudent decisions in the voting booth-both of which are essential American civil liberties.

Project Vote Smart's Voter's Self-Defense System has been designed to help citizens defend themselves against these campaign tactics with abundant, accurate, relevant information on the issue positions, campaign finances, backgrounds, voting records and special interest group evaluations of more than 40,000 candidates and elected officials.

PVS represents the simple but essential idea that people can self-govern if given the educational tools necessary for the task. This nonprofit research institution, founded by Carter and Ford, Goldwater and McGovern, Ferraro and Gingrich and other national leaders, provides an easy-to-use system to which any citizen can turn for information about candidates and elected officials via its website ( and toll-free Voter's Research Hotline (1-888-VOTE-SMART).

This effort is funded entirely by philanthropic foundation grants and the individual contributions of more than 45,000 Americans. The Project does not support or oppose any issue, candidate or party. It provides each person with simple access to the information that is relevant to their own concerns.

As an employer, ask yourself a few questions about the workers you will hire in just a few days. What do you know about their backgrounds and previous experience? Which special interest groups may be backing them financially? How might they deal with the issues that are important to you if you hire them? More importantly, are they even willing to GIVE you that information while they're asking for your vote?

Answers to these questions are essential for citizens who are trying to decide who to hire on November 5th to represent them in some of the most important jobs in America. And even if your candidates are not showing up at the job interview to answer these questions, you can get the answers and much more through the Voter's Self-Defense System at, or 1-888-VOTE SMART.

This basic information on your candidates is essential to self-governance! You have the right to insist on knowing whether you are putting a pilot or a plumber in the cockpit this year-and every election year.

Don't just vote, Vote Smart!

Aaron Brock is News Director of Project Vote Smart, One Common Ground, Philipsburg, MT 59858-9767; (406) 859-8683;

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This story was published on October 2, 2002.