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Valued Social Butterfly
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Farmers and car dealers break the law when they lie

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https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2018/12/27/lies-break-laws-busi...

 

 

Farmers and car dealers break the law when they lie to make a sale. Why not politicians?

 

 

Opinion: Lie to voters or repeatedly engage in deceptive measures and well, that's democracy.

 

Smart farmers don’t buy a pig in a poke, and they know that selling one can break federal law.



“No packer, swine contractor, live poultry dealer, stockyard owner, market agency, or dealer shall knowingly make, issue, or circulate any false or misleading reports, records, or representation concerning the market conditions or the prices or sale of any livestock, meat, or live poultry,” state U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921.



Experienced car dealers know that if they try to pass off refurbished cars as new they can face a large, but not too large, assessment of punitive damages.



“Evidence that a defendant has repeatedly engaged in prohibited conduct while knowing or suspecting that it was unlawful would provide relevant support for an argument that strong medicine is required to cure the defendant's disrespect for the law,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decisioninvolving BMW automobiles.

 



And frequent sellers and buyers of stock expect to complete each transaction free of misstatements or omissions of material facts.

 



“Any manipulative or deceptive device or contrivance in contravention of such rules and regulations” as defined under the 1934 federal securities act and regulations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissionwill void contracts made in reasonable reliance on the misrepresentation or omission.

 


But lie to voters, repeatedly engage in campaign conduct knowing or suspecting it was unlawful, or employ manipulative or deceptive measures such as a “catch and kill” contract that pays to keep news secret — well, that’s democracy.

 

 

Sure, citizens expect elections will be mean and messy, just as they know promises will be broken.



Indeed, politics now involves a “rough and tumble Wild West approach to negative commercials that have seemingly become standard discourse in many political campaigns,” Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote in a 2014 case overturning a recovery by one candidate against another accused of spreading a lie.



Outlaw that and you put robust electioneering and free speech at risk.

 

 

“Among public figures and officials, an added layer of toughness is expected, and a greater showing of culpability is required under our governing legal standards to make sure the freedom of political speech, even when it sounds like speech far removed from the dignity of the office being sought, is not suppressed or chilled,” Cady wrote.

 


But what about the rights of citizens in the aftermath of a manipulated election or a result possibly skewed by material misstatements or omissions? 

 



Should voters stand without right or recourse whenever the winning candidate prevails through orchestrated silence, cultivated falsehoods, and an election landscape tilted by deceit or fraud?

 



To hear certain U.S. senators who otherwise routinely champion the rule of law, that stands acceptable because, apparently, politicians who lie or cheat or break campaign finance disclosure rules merely commit a venial political sin.  

 

 

Tell that to the farmers charged with fines, the car dealers assessed damages, and the stock brokers jailed for their market misconduct.

 


And, Senators, be frank with the victims of the political deceit and fraud by telling the electorate you believe winning politicians, unlike everyday working women and men, need not concern themselves with rules, laws, or expectations of honesty, decency, and fair play.

 


Because that seems to be what you believe.

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