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BIOS: DON'T MAKE THINGS UP, YOU WILL GET CAUGHT

Candidates for office need to weave together a compelling narrative that answers the question of why they are seeking public office. In American public life, certain aspects of a person’s background can help them build for election, while others can be an impediment to the campaign. Certain traditional models for a Congressional candidate still remain highly attractive to voters; candidates with a history of military or civilian service have a unique advantage. Their experience as a public servant uniquely positions them to speak emphatically about civic duty. Candidate bios also provide an important opportunity to frame one’s life story in the most favorable terms possible, without the filter of the media or a competing candidate diluting the message.

When it comes to telling one’s life story however, candidates must tread cautiously. Those who embellish even the slightest details can find themselves at a center of a media ‘scandal’. In 2010, Connecticut senate candidate Richard Blumenthal came under intense criticism for appearing to exaggerate his military service in the Vietnam era. While the candidate was ultimately successful, the error was nearly dealt a death blow to his nascent campaign. In Massachusetts, then-candidate Elizabeth Warren also touched off a fierce debate about the merits of affirmative action when it was revealed that she had identified herself as partially Native American to ostensibly gain more favorable treatment in the college admissions process.

Your opponent’s staff will read all of your old bios looking for inconsistencies. They will call the schools you claim to have attended to verify your degree. They will verify all details of your military service. They will verify your business and financial history and your criminal record. Candidates make up degrees with appalling regularity. If you don’t have your degree, be honest about it. If you lie you will get caught. 

Before taking the plunge into the public spotlight, all would-be candidates must be diligent in combing through their personal pasts. They need to be consistent and truthful in the re-telling of their life stories. To do otherwise is to tempt a flurry of negative media coverage that could end an campaign before it has a chance to get started.