Do you promise to run a fair campaign?

January 23, 2012

A relatively small number of political candidates in Illinois have signed a pledge to run an honest and fair campaign in 2012. Candidates who sign the Code of Fair Campaign Practices promise not to slander their opponents, and to limit attacks to legitimate challenges to their records.

WBEZ's Sam Hudzik joined Eight Forty-Eight's Tony Sarabia to discuss this pledge.  Listen to their conversation here:

CODE: Read it (PDF)
WHO SIGNED IT? List from state election board (PDF)

This election cycle, a couple hundred candidates from across the state filed the code with the Illinois State Election Board.

Making up an outsized portion of that total given its population is Vermillion County in east-central Illinois. The county clerk, Lynn Foster, said her staff makes sure people know about the code.

"I won't say that we encourage them to do it. But we let them know that it's available and an option to them. And many of our candidates are very interested in it," Foster said. "I'm not saying our candidates are better or nicer or more wonderful than anyone else. But clean elections and fair campaign practices in general are of concern to people in our communities."

The code got its start in 1990, when then-state Sen. Dawn Clark Netsch led the effort to get it on the books. There's no enforcement bite to the code, and it's entirely optional.

"By First Amendment principles, I couldn't make it a mandatory code with prison sentences or whatever criminal violations," Netsch said in a 2009 interview. "We thought about that a good deal, and [were] quite convinced that would have been tossed out."

Just one of Illinois' four legislative leaders, House Republican leader Tom Cross, has filed the fair campaign code this election season.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform sends a copy of the code to state and local candidates each election season asking them to sign it, according to David Morrison, the group's deputy director.