Transparency in an election: what it is not

There is a saying that goes along the lines of ‘If you have a question and go to a priest, you will get a priest answer. if you ask a rabbi, you get a rabbi answer. If you ask a doctor, a medical answer. Ultimately, you get the answer you want based on the person you ask to give an answer.’

This also applies in a manner to politicians, but in reverse. The organization and people you allow to give you questions reveals what you want to answer, or avoid. This is most true in an election cycle. Politicians want to appear as the best friend of everyone, and have the largest number of voters feel that they agree with the candidate. This kind of edited conversation with the public is often derided for its lack of transparency, and it should be.

Representative Richard Hanna

An example on a local level is Rep. Richard Hanna of New York. He represents a new Congressional district, formed just this year, the NY-22. A large portion of his constituents, located in what is called the Southern Tier of NY, have never heard of him. They didn’t vote for him in the 2010 mid-term elections, nor are they familiar with his positions.

In light of this lack of knowledge, Rep. Hanna has ignored several organizations in requests to appear and introduce himself, including Tea Party organizations that were critical to his election in 2010. He has also ignored several news media on requests to interview him (and we must disclose that we are one of those news media).

On a national level, President Obama has also provided an example. On October 22nd, President Obama spoke with the Des Moines Register – which had been requesting an interview with the President for weeks. The interview was a half hour long conversation on the election, the economy, and plans for a 2nd term if re-elected. The purpose was to have the Des Moines Register endorse President Obama. The call was also deemed off-the-record, by request of the White House, over the pleas of the Des Moines Register to provide the conversation with voters.

As Rick Green, editor of the Des Moines Register, states

“Just two weeks before Election Day, the discussion, I believe, would have been valuable to all voters, but especially those in Iowa and around the country who have yet to decide between the incumbent Democrat and his Republican opponent… We repeatedly –- and politely — have asked Obama 2012 campaign officials in Iowa and Chicago for the same access [as the Romney campaign provided previously] to the president. I believe it earned serious consideration. But despite at least 28 campaign stops and 11 days in our state, we never could convince his team to carve out a few moments for our editorial board –- in our office, on the trail or even in a barn somewhere in Iowa… From a voter standpoint, keeping it off-the-record was a disservice… Yet, it also speaks to the transparency all voters should demand from the candidates. They want more than just repetitive sound bites on the campaign trail or rehearsed one-liners from debate stages.”

The President instead will appear on Jay Leno tonight, and on Friday at MTV for 30 minutes. He is also granting an interview to US Weekly. Which begs the question, why wouldn’t he allow Iowa voters (and anyone else that might read the transcript) to hear what he said? Why would the President prefer voters to chose who to vote for based on the glib and inconsequential questions of an entertainer or a channel dedicated to critique of which music video is best. Entertainment organizations that are priorities for voters when they want to understand the economy and national security.

Of course, once the news media learned of this snub to Iowa voters, the White House changed its position – without further comment. But the issue of transparency stands. As Ed Morrissey of wrote,

“The obvious takeaway is that Obama is much more willing to discuss Nicki Minaj on the record than his economic record with reporters and editors who can call him out on his false representations of the economy, and prefers “boxers or briefs” questions to whether or not he was briefed on what happened in Benghazi.”

and then after the White House flipped on the situation under pressure from the news media,

“Just like Obama’s second term agenda, it’s too little and too late to reverse the impression made by this already.”

Whether or not voters agree with Morrissey’s reasoning for the initial denial, the impression is unquestionably made. There are reasons that President Obama wants to be re-elected for, and the public should not know them. Just like Rep. Hanna apparently believes that he should be re-elected but his new constituents in the Southern Tier don’t need to know why. These are disturbing impressions that should cause voters to pause.

Transparency is NOT an issue for just in-between election cycles. The questions avoided are as important as those answered, and who is asking is as critical as the answer given.

What voters take away from this is up to them. But we believe that they deserve to at least know what is being denied as much as what is being provided, because a fully informed electorate can make the best decisions at the local, State, and national levels. That’s how we improve American now and in the future.

M V Consulting, Inc does NOT advocate any candidate or incumbent in any local, State, or national election. We seek to provide the broadest coverage and information on each candidate and incumbent so that voters may make an informed decision on how they want to vote – whatever that vote may be.

About the Author

Michael Vass
Born in 1968, a political commentator for over a decade. Has traveled the U.S. and lived in Moscow and Tsblisi, A former stockbroker and 2014 Congressional candidate. Passionate about politics with emphasis on 1st and 2nd Amendments.

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