Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 14, 2012

Forum: Ethics in election?

By T. Michael Jackson

---- — We have just witnessed the most expensively funded election in the history of the world.

Over $6 billion spent on advertising and campaign material. Many will speculate for months on how that money could have better been spent: education, medical research, getting our mentally ill off the streets, etc.

Before we forget what just happened, it's time to examine where that money went.

For instance:

n What about the ethical implications of that money?

n What about the recipients of the money?

n What about the transparency of the source of those funds?

This year's campaign witnessed more advertisements that were unscrupulously false than ever before. One that stands out is the full-page advertisement for the "bridge" linking Canada and the United States that appeared in newspapers throughout Michigan.

It implied senior citizens would be put at risk, that new firefighters, police and teachers would not be hired if a new bridge is built, along with other blatantly false statements.

Why would a newspaper, radio or television station run an ad they knew was not true?

Why accept any ads at election time they know are blatantly false? Whatever happened to journalistic ethics? Might the lure of advertising revenue outweigh ethics?

And what about the ethics of transparency? Yes, I know the ruling called "Citizens United" established the theory that corporations were people and the right to exercise First-Amendment rights are protected, but allowing someone to speak does not guarantee anonymity of the speaker. Before the next election let's hope that changes can be made so transparency again is present.

Todd Flynn, a junior political science major at The University of Michigan and chair of a group called Voice Your Vote, recently stated "The country will best be governed when the most citizens influence its governance." That's people and not money doing the influencing.

That's good ethics.

About the author: T. Michael Jackson is a retired public relations executive and community activist. He has been chairman of and served on ethic boards of both public and nonprofit organizations, including Traverse City's Downtown Development Authority and the Traverse City Commission.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing Please include biographical information and a photo.