Spokesman Review

Spin Control: Washington group checks candidate backgrounds for voters

Sun., July 30, 2017

 

If you haven’t voted yet – and I don’t have to be Carnac the Magnificent to know most of you haven’t – it might be because you don’t know enough about those unfamiliar names on the primary ballot.

An off-year election like Tuesday’s primary is the kind that frequently draws new blood to the body politic. If Congress and the White House campaigns represent the Major Leagues of politics, city council and school board primaries might be like the Spokane Indians.

Most of these candidates will never make an appearance in the political equivalent of Safeco Field, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth checking out now.

That can be more difficult than last year, when newspapers, airwaves and social media were overflowing with election coverage. But there is a website that will give Spokane-area voters some useful background information on candidates for municipal office.

CandidateVerification.org is a nonprofit with a bipartisan board, many of them veterans of different political battles. It asks candidates to submit to the kind of background checks that any employer might do on a potential employee – a multi-state criminal check going back 10 years, a nationwide check of sex offender registries, plus county and federal civil records. It also verifies any education and employment history a candidate lists on a resume.

When the checks come back, the candidate is asked to give permission for the group to post the results online.

Lots of organizations ask candidates to supply information or fill out questionnaires, and the response is often spotty. Republican candidates don’t respond to left-leaning groups and Democrats ignore right-leaning ones. And some candidates get so many questionnaires they refuse to do any.

By itself, CandidateVerification has no clout, Executive Director David Doud said. But a diverse array of groups rely on its background checks enough that candidates seeking support are either required or encouraged to sign up.

“It’s the pressure of our partners that really drives the process,” Doud said.

That includes groups as different as the Spokane Home Builders and Spokane Realtors, faith-based We Believe We Vote, and Amplify, the new name for Progressive Majority of Washington.

Arthur Whitten, of the Home Builders, said the group requires a background check before it will endorse a candidate, and finds them especially helpful this year.

“There are so many of these first-time candidates,” he said. “It’s like endorsement insurance for our members.”

Penny Lancaster, of We Believe We Vote, said the organization doesn’t require it, but does recommend candidates get the background check. Those who do get “extra credit” in its rundown of where they stand on key issues. “We appreciate what they are doing,” she said.

E.J. Juarez, of Amplify, said they encourage candidates, especially new ones, to get the background checks so “they know what’s out there.” The checks can reveal small mistakes in their resume, like a date that’s off for an education certificate or job they held. It can also let a candidate know that information about a bankruptcy or that they dropped out of college could come up in a campaign.

It’s not a game of “gotcha,” Juarez said. “It’s about helping people put their best foot forward and be honest with voters.”

CandidateVerification has been concentrating on Spokane races lately, so its 2017 database currently has many of the primary candidates for local municipal offices as well as a smattering of other Eastern Washington candidates. They have to draw the line there, Doud said, because at $100 to $200 per background check, they don’t have the money for school board or fire commissioner candidates. All their money comes from donations.

Doud hopes to grow the database in the period between the primary and the November general election.

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Tacoma News Tribune Endorsements

Our 2017 election endorsements, revisited

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Tacoma News Tribune

'VERIFY more' is TNT ed board mantra for 2017 election

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Our Voice: Political background checks make sense

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CandidateVerification Newsletter #2

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Tacoma News Tribune

FROM THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Employers usually perform some sort of background check on job applicants to make sure that their resumes match up with reality.

That’s only wise; a 2012 study found that more than half of résumés and job applications included falsifications, such as fraudulent degrees.

Consider a different kind of job application. Doesn’t it make sense for voters to be confident in the people they “hire” (read, “elect”) to the Legislature, Congress, or even grass-roots positions on local councils or school boards? Before donating to candidates, wouldn’t you like to know that they don’t have a criminal background and that they’re being honest about their education, background and job history?

As the recent case involving South Sound legislator Graham Hunt showed, candidates can be as tempted to inflate their résumés as any eager job-seeker. But the average voter doesn’t have the ability or resources to do background checks that might find discrepancies in the records of scores of candidates.

Enter Candidate Verification, a Bellevue-based nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works with a national background screening company, Talentwise, to corroborate candidates’ résumés. Background checks cover criminal records and verify education, employment, professional credentials and military service, including medals and tours of duty.

Inflation of military records is one of the more common discrepancies, according to David Doud, executive director of Candidate Verification.

Candidates can sign up for the background checks at no cost and are able to see a copy of the results before authorizing release and inclusion on the Candidate Verification database. A dispute resolution process is available if a candidate challenges any results.

Organizations can partner with Candidate Verification to perform background checks on office-seekers before endorsing or donating to them – with the candidate’s permission. That happened in Tacoma in the November school board election.

Before Stand For Children Washington endorsed, candidates were asked whether they would be willing to undergo a background check. Andrea Cobb, a candidate the group eventually endorsed, was able to cite the background report in her campaign advertising – like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Candidates can link their report to online voters guides like Ballotpedia and include it in their fund-raising appeals.

More candidates should take advantage of the service in the run-up to the November election – and challenge their opponents to be as equally transparent. Voters might decide to give extra scrutiny to candidates who refuse background checks.

If Candidate Verification checks become more widespread, that can only help make voters more confident in the political system. It’s disheartening and disillusioning to find out the truth about a candidate only after the election.


Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/editorials/article60965792.html#storylink=cpy

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CandidateVerification Encourages all 2016 Candidates to Verify their Backgrounds

The resignation of Washington Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting, over dramatic misrepresentations of his military service provides yet another reminder for why the voting public needs a means of verifying the candidates’ resumes for public office.

“The exaggeration, misrepresentation and outright falsification of candidates’ backgrounds occur far too often in our elections, and the public usually learns of these deceptions long after the votes are cast,” said David Doud, executive director of CandidateVerification, a non-partisan, non-profit corporation that builds greater transparency in elections by inviting candidates to participate in a free background check. “Our process seeks to change that, and to bring to the election process a much-needed measure of confidence that candidates actually have the qualifications and experience they claim to have.”  

“Today, it’d be almost unimaginable to purchase a used car without consulting CARFAX, yet we’ve become accustomed to taking at face value the unverified claims of candidates for public office,” said Ron Dotzauer, a member of the CandidateVerification board. “How is it possible that we have greater confidence in the claims of used car sellers than in potential public officials? The public should demand more.”

Last year was a record year of participation and expansion for CandidateVerification. The group helped over 75 candidates from across the state verify their qualifications for the public offices they sought, and achieved participation of 90 percent of candidates in Spokane, 70 percent of candidates in Yakima, 60 percent of candidates in King County, and traction in Snohomish and Pierce counties.

“With election season kicking into high gear, the public will be assessing the qualifications of dozens of candidates for public office,” said Lisa Macfarlane, a member of the CandidateVerification board . “To eliminate any potential doubt in the voters’ minds about whether they are truly suited to hold public office, we encourage all political candidates in Washington to register with CandidateVerification.”  

CandidateVerification’s Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)-approved self-authorized background checks include a Multi-State Instant Criminal Check, a check of the National Sex Offender Registry, a Criminal Federal and County search (10-Year Address History), a Civil Federal and County search (10-Year Address History), as well as verification of key resume items such as education, employment, professional credentials, and military service records.  CandidateVerification also offers candidates a safe forum from which to disclose prior criminal convictions and other adverse information.

Contact Information: David Doud, cvodavid@gmail.com, 4254401244

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CandidateVerification Newsletter #1

Check out our newsletter here

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Yakima Herald

Oft-opposing groups cooperate on candidate background checks

This summer, Yakima residents will be witness to the most diverse set of council candidates in the city’s history. The court-mandated redistricting has brought about seven new council districts, only three of which will include a sitting incumbent on the ballot. The process has inspired a large number of first-time candidates to test themselves in the arena of local elections. To see this number of residents willing to give of their time and energy to serve their community should give us hope for our community’s future leadership.

The Central Washington Home Builders Association (CWHBA) and Progressive Majority Washington organizations typically support candidates with differing philosophies. But in this election, we are working together to ensure voters have the most accurate information possible on candidates running this year. It is our intent to emphasize the enormous benefit of transparency and disclosure to every candidate.

CandidateVerification.org

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CWHBA and Progressive Majority WA

Central Washington Home Builders Association and Progressive Majority taking The Lead in Yakima on Candidate Transparency(Yakima, Wash.) – The Board of Directors of the Central Washington Home Builders Association (CWHBA) made the decision this week to modify its candidate endorsement policy to include mandatory background checks for anyone seeking election support going forward. Also joining the bandwagon is the Progressive Majority.The background checks are free and self-authorized by the candidates. The CWHBA and Progressive Majority are partnering with Candidate Verification, a non-profit 501C3 organization based in Seattle to make this requirement possible. Once the candidate has had the opportunity to review his or her background check, Candidate Verification will then post it online for the public to see.

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