Detecting lies and distortion during the election

You — the voter — cannot hold politicians accountable if you accept the lies.

Keith Livingston

Keith Livingston

It is election season. For some the sentiment is: “yippie” we get to throw the bums out. For others it is about doing what they can to hold onto or gain “power” — ideally with the intent of serving “the people.”

Political outcomes represent power, access and money and can make the rich richer, as well as decide how society gets molded, paid for, managed, and what is legal and what isn’t. Elections and politicking are great American traditions.

Mark Twain stated: “We have the best government money can buy.”

During the time I lived in Texas, and before Texas changed its laws, the owner of Pilgrim’s Pride Chicken, Bo Pilgrim, once passed out checks for $10,000 on the floor the state Legislature to any legislator who wanted one. He considered it to be open lobbying and not a bribe. It was his way of assuring that the Legislature was friendly to his business needs and the people be damned.

Running for office is expensive and requires money to underwrite signs, advertising and, of course, the political mailer. Candidates and their campaigns typically create a snapshot mailer showcasing their successes, ideas and positions, and juxtapose this information in a way that defines their opponent.

The really nasty negative mailers tend to come from special interests, political action committees, or unknown funders who knowingly represent the worst aspects of politics — “the ends justify the means.” Negative misleading mailers filled with half-truths, character assignations and lies, sent to you by “others” on behalf of a candidate, should be refuted by that candidate if they have any integrity.

Lies and half-truths told frequently may get you elected, but winning does not make you instantly trustworthy. Voter trust has to be earned every day and each election cycle.

Getting lost in the negative messaging and party position politics is that two or more people are running for an elected office to serve the public’s interest. Candidates generally are running for office with the desire of solving problems, representing ideas and building consensus for the common good of society.

If you follow the money, and dark money often can’t be followed, you may ascertain the individual or group who is trying control the candidate, elected official or election outcome. Do we want our elections corrupted by theocratic ideologues, party power brokers, special interests or corporations working to line their pockets at the expense of serving the interests of people first and society as a whole?

Negative campaign pieces have been hitting my mailbox involving candidates running for offices in the 30th Legislative District. Candidates who are beneficiaries of these hit-job mailers sent by “others” perpetrating falsehoods in their name should denounce the mailer, especially if the candidate cares about elevating the discourse.

One negative mailer I received came from Evergreen Progress in Kirkland supporting Linda Kochmar. Its message provides misleading information on a vote Michael Pellicciotti made, voting affirmatively, for a bill allowing SEIU 775 to change its status from public to private. The mailer states that home health care employees will be forced to join a union — not true. The mailer is false and a gross misrepresentation of SB 6199, which passed with votes from every member of the 30th Legislative District delegation.

Another example is one initiated in support of Mark Miloscia by Enterprise Washington JobsPAC, which is an ultra-conservative PAC specializing in negative targeting. The fodder for their mailer dealt with a trip taken in 2013 by senior leaders of Federal Way Public Schools district and several board members, including Claire Wilson, to Europe. The trip was undertaken for establishing a global learning initiative with the defined purpose of benefiting Federal Way students.

Public officials’ travel expenditures come with backlash risk, but if the district is going to change and grow its potential to serve, travel is a necessary investment for district officials to explore opportunities as they work on improving educational resources. The mailer is a characterization that distorts the purpose for the travel and devalues leadership discovery efforts to improve education.

Your job is to practice lie and distortion detection as you look at any candidate’s mailers, and determine if it has been authorized by the candidate. If yes, verify the information received, and understand the ideas as well as their intent. If it is a third-party mailer, produced as negative misinformation, just toss it in the recycle bin — you will feel instantly better.

Lie or misrepresent facts to your employer and you won’t last long. Lie to your friend and your friendship is done. Children lying to their parents or teachers get into trouble.

Lie to the people, demean your opponents, get the press to repeat false statements, use unscrupulous news sources as purveyors of propaganda, and you can become president, protect your potential criminality with support from elected cohorts as you enable your friends and yourself to profit. It is important to remember that truth is truth and truth is fact-based.

Lying is not good for our commitment to government by the people, sustaining an open political dialogue, our democracy or county. You — the voter — cannot hold politicians accountable if you accept the lies and have no integrity of your own. Integrity matters. Accountability starts with you — vote wisely.

Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at

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