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Should Lying in Political Campaigns Be Illegal?

Birmingham's outgoing state senator introduces a bill to make false and disparaging remarks against candidates a misdemeanor.

State Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, addresses the crowd at Veteran's Day ceremony in Birmingham last month. The veteran legislator recently introduced a bill that would criminalize lying in political campaigns. Do you agree?
State Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, addresses the crowd at Veteran's Day ceremony in Birmingham last month. The veteran legislator recently introduced a bill that would criminalize lying in political campaigns. Do you agree?

Both elected and aspiring politicians have a reputation for stretching the truth in order to sway voters. But is it time for the law — not just the electorate — to hold them accountable?

The Birmingham-area's outgoing state senator believes it is. State Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, recently proposed legislation that would make a false statement intended to malign any candidate or politician a misdemeanor, punishable by fines and up to 90 days in jail. The law would include one's political opponents, letter-to-the-editor writers, or anyone that makes such  statements about a candidate publicly.

Pappageorge, term limited in the senate's 13th District in 2014, said he wants to make politics a little more honest on his way out during a recent debate on Fox 2’s 'Let it Rip Weekend.'

Holding up diagram with a divided rectangle, Pappageorge said campaigns should not be judged whether they are positive or negative campaign, but whether truthful or untruthful.

“The bottom feeders on both sides of the political spectrum have figured out how to use a small truth to tell a bigger lie,” he said. "The focus should be on truth vs. lie, not positive vs. negative.”

Mark Brewer, former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, argued that the type of speech proponents of the bill hope to curb is constitutionally protected. He then chided Pappageorge and others in the Republican-led State Legislature for not focusing on Michigan's problems in education and job creation.

“This bill shows what our defunct political system is doing, instead of focusing on these kind of things, and trying to throw people who want to write letters to editor in jail, I’d ask the senators and his colleagues to focus on the real problems here in Michigan.”

Do you believe the State Legislature should criminalize lying in political campaigns? Tell us with a comment.

John Roach December 12, 2013 at 11:26 AM
Holding those who make paid-for false statements is probably a good idea. By "paid-for" I mean advertising and campaign material created with resources (time and money) sufficient to verify the truthfulness of the statements. Letters to the editor or off the cuff statements should be held to a much lower standard -- one of opinion, not purporting to be fact.

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