Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Ethical Considerations for Candidates and Their Supporters

What Price Victory?

The task of raising money for a political campaign can be so overwhelming that many qualified individuals don't run for office simply because they don't want to ask for money. Here are some ethical considerations to consider in fundraising for your campaign, or on someone else's behalf.

  1. How do you ask for contributions? Whom do you solicit?

    • Friends and family?

    • Colleagues at work?

    • Political action committees?

    • Local businesses?

    • Labor unions?

    • Developers?

    • Political parties?

    • Tobacco, gambling, other special interests?

    • Out- of- the- area or out- of- state interests?

  2. Is there anyone you should not solicit? Why?

  3. What should you do if offered money from individuals, companies, or organizations you don't want to be associated with?

  4. How do you handle in-kind contributions?

  5. How can you tell a donation does not include an expectation of quid pro quo?

  6. Can you purchase "good will" ads and not consider them a campaign expenditure?

  7. What is your ethical responsibility in accepting campaign donations?

    • Acknowledgement to the donor

    • Timely and accurate disclosure

    • Responsible use of the money

  8. Are there any ethical considerations in loaning your campaign money or in self-funding your campaign?

Campaign Communication

Communicating your ideas to the voters in an effective and honest way is key to an ethical campaign. It is equally important to accurately represent the views held by your opponent, if you choose to compare your platform or record. Consider these questions as you plan and execute the campaign.

  1. Have you been truthful in describing your qualifications? Have you exaggerated your accomplishments or misrepresented your record?

  2. How will you use photos?

    • To make you look better, your opponent look worse?

    • To include people not supporting you, thus implying an endorsement?

    • With or without written permission?

    • With an accurate caption or date?

  3. Are there special considerations when using the Internet for campaigning?

  4. What is the difference between a negative "hit piece" and a "comparative" piece?

  5. How should you respond to independent and third-party campaigning on your behalf? When those interests oppose you?

  6. What is legitimate when discussing your opponent's past? Are there any personal or financial mistakes or issues that are not fair game for a campaign?

The Conduct of the Campaign

The entire campaign team - candidate, consultant, supporters-must be responsible for the actions taken during an election. It's especially important to have a clear understanding of the ethical standards you expect and what actions you will take should a problem arise.

  1. Who is in charge? The candidate, campaign manager, consultant?

  2. What will you do if you learn damaging information about your opponent in the last weeks of the campaign?

  3. How will you respond to an allegation of an ethics violation?

  4. What is your responsibility to share with the media significant changes in your campaign or your candidacy, such as the withdrawal of a key endorsement?

  5. What will you do to make sure those working on your behalf conduct themselves according to your high standards?

Thursday, October 7, 2004