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June 8, 2010 > Campaign ethics

Campaign ethics

By Simon Wong

On June 6, 2010, Garreet Yee denounced negative campaign literature disseminated by his rival's supporters in the race for State Assembly District 20.

Negative campaigning (aka mudslinging) is an attempt to win an advantage by diverting attention to negative aspects of an opponent or of a policy instead of highlighting one's own positive attributes or preferred policies. Negative campaigning includes rhetoric that contrasts and/or attacks an opponent intended to destroy the opponent's reputation. Sometimes, the attempt to persuade links the validity of an idea with a personal belief or characteristic of the promulgator.

Negative campaigning carries risks and consequences. It can elicit negative responses to toward those responsible for the campaign. Both the content of negative advertising and the contexts of the announcements affect their efficacy and voters' perceptions of candidates. The candidate running the negative campaign may suffer instead of the intended target if the negative information is irrelevant or of little value to the overall political process.

"People are tired of petty politics, lies and fighting. We all want results and solutions. That's why I took a Clean Campaign Pledge and urged my opponent to do the same," stated Yee. "His response was that he could not control other's actions. I'd expected better."

Yee's Clean Campaign Pledge, which has been on his website since January 2010, states his campaign "will only make true statements based on substantiated facts," "will not engage in lies, untruths or slander" and he "will not play political games with the reputations of others, will cast issues only in a fair light, and be straightforward with his positions on issues."

"I've upheld this pledge in all my campaign materials. Unfortunately, others are trying to make this race about politics and fundraising when it should be about the issues. My opponent and his supporters have sent out negative and misleading mailers about me. I denounce such tactics," stated Yee.

"The most recent mailers - from my opponent directly, NOT Independent Expenditure Committees - are outrageous," he continued. "To PhotoShop my image and portray me doing something that I don't, something that has nothing to do with my job, something that is a blatant lie, just crosses the line.

"My job in the Rating and Statistical Department of the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB) is to collect data from the workers' compensation industry on behalf of the state of California. We ensure companies remit data responsibly and in a timely fashion, facilitating the process with company audits. The state of California determines rates. We don't deal with insurance claims; that is the role of insurance companies. WCIRB is not an insurance company.

"Only $37,000 (12 percent) of my overall campaign contributions are from insurance-related businesses. The allegation that I've been bought is absolutely ludicrous," stated Yee. "Hundreds of private individuals have also contributed. I'm a dedicated servant, not beholden to one group. My opponent's campaign has received $300,000 from special interests, viz. trial attorneys."

According to Yee, his campaign is clearly a threat to his opponent who would not otherwise have resorted to such tactics to try and gain an advantage. He agrees negative campaigns, or mud-slinging, can be effective which is why they occur.

"My supporters and I chose not to follow that route. It's not who I am and it is not what District 20's voters want. They don't want such politics. Such activity is distasteful but, unfortunately, can be effective.

"Perception can influence voters. Skillful use of words and images can create an impression upon the observer. When pressed about his claim to have created 4,000 jobs, he has been vague about which jobs he has actually created. Is a "small businessman" the same as a bankruptcy attorney? My opponent cites the former as his occupation and earns a living as a lawyer. To what extent was he involved in Tesla's recent move to the former NUMMI plant and what was his role in persuading solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra to locate in Fremont?"

"Garrett Yee and I were Eagle Scouts together and I have known him for 28 years," says Newark Firefighter Mark Cavanaugh. "He's running a clean campaign focused on the issues, not political games and name-calling. I don't believe it when a Special Interest spends tens of thousands of dollars to warn you about Special Interests - that's the pot calling the kettle black."

To view Garrett Yee's statement, visit and click on City Desk.

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