AVOIDING SCANDAL: YOU WILL ALWAYS GET CAUGHT
Everyone loves a good scandal. Especially the media. Politics reliably provides salacious scandals mixing sex, money and power. Everyone is looking for their next big story and political scandal will always provide. Whether it is Congressmen sending naked pictures on twitter or hiding cash in their freezer, Mayors smoking crack with prostitutes, or Governors “hiking the Appalachian Trail,” the truth always comes out because someone will keep digging.
Many candidates are surprised to discover that women send nude photos of themselves during the campaign. If you are married, don’t have affairs during the campaign. If you are preaching faith and morality, don’t have affairs during the campaign. If you are single, have fun but be very careful when responding to an anonymous “inquiry.” You never know who it is, or what their connection to the press is.
Sex happens. If you are a single candidate, you don’t have to be celibate through the campaign. You can date and you can have sex. YOU CANNOT HOWEVER HAVE SEX WITH YOUR STAFF. Though this shouldn’t need explaining, you are in a position of power over your staff. When it comes out, and it WILL come out, you like you have abused your power,
even if it is entirely consensual.
Not all scandals are sexual in nature (though they tend to be the most entertaining.) As Bob McDonnell, Governor of Virginia will tell you, being a public office holder (or candidate) has its perks, until it doesn’t. You will get offers supporters that fall in those tricky grey areas that aren’t illegal, but aren’t completely on the up and up. Do not take them. Someone will get into the nitty gritty details and either way you will not look good. If you do fall into this trap, acknowledge your mistake immediately and apologize. Return the money from that donor or if it was an in kind donation pay for the services.
A Congressional candidate from a major US city decided to have local police sell tickets to his $10 fundraiser. There’s a law on the books there that if a city worker engages in partisan political activity they face up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine PER COUNT. So if a cop sold 10 $10 tickets they could be fined $3,000 and go to jail for 3 years. We put a stop to this before it got bad, but think about the media nightmare had something gone wrong.
As discussed in a previous blog post, if you have scandals in your past you should not let your opponent use them against you. Get them out in the open before the race heats up and the controversy sinks you in the crucial final weeks. If a current scandal breaks during your candidacy you must address it appropriately according to the severity.
Two most important take aways: NEVER misuse campaign funds (your opponent will be looking at your expenditures to see if you are) and NEVER have a relationship with a staffer, especially if you are married. Someone will ALWAYS find out.