This course is for anyone interested in elections. Participants will receive practical advice on setting an ethical tone, ethical decision-making, ethical operations, and using campaign ethics to their advantage. Please note that this is a course on ethics and not a primer on the specific laws that regulate the political process. Upon completion, participants will receive a badge from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics that can be used on campaign websites and other campaign communications.
Public service is a noble calling. The process of getting there, however, is not always so noble. Our process for electing public officials is born out of the ethical ideal of creating an informed electorate. Regrettably, secret obligations in exchange for endorsements, scripted debates, the influence of big money, and irrelevant, deceptive, and vitriolic campaign communications leave the voter without any real information about what a candidate stands for or to whom the candidate is beholden. Voters feel disenfranchised, believing that their vote no longer matters. Citizens are also frustrated by political polarity and resultant lack of legislative productivity. The public perceives that negotiation and compromise are no longer available tools for those who govern due to obligations created during the campaign process. Moreover, unethical political attacks freely dispensed during a campaign poison later legislative relationships.
Statistics for voter turnout and public trust in government are at historical lows. At the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics we believe that one of the reasons for this civic disengagement is that our political process turns a blind eye toward unethical campaign practices. We believe that encouraging ethical campaigns will decrease political polarity by reducing the rancor in political races, will restore public trust in government by ensuring fairness and integrity in campaigns, and will increase civic engagement by creating a process that not only encourages an informed and involved electorate, but encourages good people to run for office.
This course was designed to take approximately two hours to complete, but the eight modules can be completed separately at your convenience.
- MODULE 1: What Are Campaign Ethics?
In the first module, participants will learn about ethics and why we’re talking about ethics in a campaign context. Discussed are the three general categories for ethical campaign practices: Practices which help create an informed electorate; practices which help restore trust in government and practices that fulfill governmental duties over to constituents.
- MODULE 2: Crafting the Campaign Message
In the second module, participants will explore how to craft an ethical campaign message and how to identify and avoid deceptive practices.
- MODULE 3: Attacks, Counter Attacks, and Dirty Tricks
In the third module, participants will examine unethical campaign tactics and will learn 10 rules for ethical engagement.
- MODULE 4: Campaign Promises
In the fourth module participants will discover at how to create an informed electorate through substantive position statements, and transparent and consistent campaign promises--including responses to questionnaires.
- MODULE 5: Managing Donor Expectations
In the fifth module, participants will consider tactics for maintaining independence and managing donor expectations.
- MODULE 6: Campaigning While Holding Office
In the sixth module, participants will learn about the ethical duties public officials owe their constituents when they run for office while holding office.
- MODULE 7: Building the Ethical Campaign Organization
In the seventh module, participants will learn about how to set up and run an ethical campaign organization including how to devise an ethical code of campaign conduct.
- MODULE 8: Yes, You Can Be Ethical and Win
Finally, in the eighth and final module, participants will learn how to use their commitment to ethics to help them win.