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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Virginia Is For Liars - Gubernatorial Election Mailings Designed To Dupe Voters

As an editorial in The Virginian-Pilot (Hampton Crossing) reports, the campaigns of Virginia gubernatorial candidates Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore both produced and sent mailings intended to fool voters into thinking that the mailings were made by their opponents.

Tim Kaine, a Democrat, sent out a mailing with the official Republican Party logo on the front which took his opponent Kilgore to task for not signing a no-new-taxes pledge. Jerry Kilgore, a Republican, sent out a mailing titled "2005 Official Democrat and Progressive Voter Guide" urging Democrats to vote for the Independent Party candidate. Both mailings hid the actual sponsor info in a different spot on the mailing than normally used.

What's the matter, fellas? Ideas not quite good enough to get you over the top?

In a rarity for state elections commissions, the Virginia Board of Elections looked at the mailings and handed out punishments before the election. Each side was fined $100. Ouch! Each campaign had raised around $20 million.

The Board did forward along the complaints to the state's attorneys for further action, but 1) such complaints rarely get much hearing from already-swamped state attorneys, and 2) the deed is done - the effect on the election has already occurred. The current system clearly doesn't do enough to discourage the devious tactics employed by both sides this year.

Virginia has no checks on the amount rich interests can donate to candidates, which enabled both candidates to raise enormous sums of money from wealthy interests. This indulgence not only encourages candidates to spend campaign money on mendacious mailings instead of actually debating the issues, but allows wealthy interests to exert their influence over elections in the state in a manner completely out of whack with the tiny percentage of the population which they represent.

Low limits on contributions to candidates and political committees would help force the discourse above board and mean that wealthy interests didn't get more say in Virginia politics than the rest of us.

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