A local newspaper ( Des Moines Register) in an editorial on libel suits, states that libel/slander suits filed by one candidate against another will stifle political debate. I wondered how truth in political advertising and vigorous political debate could be reconciled.
I would suggest that perhaps a new state/federal regulation be created that covers any political candidate, organization, real person, or PAC producing or running any media presentation, including mailings affecting an elective office or issue.
The new regulations would state that any materials, in support of or against any candidate or issue, would have to be placed on a website in their entirety within 24 hours of distribution.
Posting on the website would include the original materials in PDF format and:
1 Derivation or source of any numbers/stats used,
2 Derivation or source for any cited content describing an issue, candidate or his/her actions
3 Derivation, context, and source of any quotations including the date and place it was originallystated and to include its context within a paragraph and the paragraph before and following any used quotation
4 The name(s) of the officers of any PAC, corporation or individuals paying for said media.
The state/federal government would create and administer the website and it would be available to all candidates at no cost. Candidates, individuals, parties, organizations, or PACs failing to provide the website with such supporting evidence within 24 hours of distribution would be suspended from advertising of any type, under threat of fine until the end of the affected election cycle.
The government-run website would not by law be allowed or required to verify the truth of any advertising/media claims but would simply serve as an open forum and a check and balance against spurious or incredible claims.
The website could include an area for rebuttal of affected parties displayed side by side with the original media claim.
No one’s free speech is controlled, no one’s rights are impinged, libel and slander are not an issue but the truth may become visible and that would help immensely. Joe Friday might tell us that a candidate who puts out materials that they cannot defend or source is not worthy of our trust to begin with, let alone end with!