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.
Our 2017 election endorsements, revisited
Here are the recommendations from the The News Tribune Editorial Board for the general election Nov. 7, 2017, with links to our previously published full-length endorsements. We focused on Pierce County’s largest cities this year, plus the Port of Tacoma, two special legislative contests and a pair of county charter amendments.
As part of our vetting process, the Editorial Board interviewed the candidates and their opponents. For the first time this fall, we also partnered with a third-party screening nonprofit, CandidateVerification, to conduct voluntary background checks on candidates.
'VERIFY more' is TNT ed board mantra for 2017 election
Welcome to September, when yard signs with unfamiliar names blanket neighborhoods, earnest candidates press countless doorbells, and voters try to keep calm and carry on during the post-Labor Day march to Election Day. Can the parade of political endorsements be far behind?
This week, The News Tribune Editorial Board goes full throttle into election season, as we start several weeks of interviews with candidates who’ll appear on the November ballot.
We’re focusing on city council races in our three largest cities (Tacoma, Lakewood, Puyallup), plus the powerful economic decision-making body that all Pierce County voters help elect: the Port of Tacoma Commission. And while 2017 isn’t a state election year, there are special elections for a pair of local legislative seats on the ballot, so we’ve scheduled Q&A sessions with those candidates, too.
As people seeking office strive to burnish their credentials, being part of the vetting process is a duty we take seriously. We’re honored to be a small cog in the electoral thresher as voters try to separate the wheat from the chaff.
But how do we cut through all the big talk, ensuring that candidates are who they say they are and have done what they say they did? It’s an important question, especially in an age when some politicians hide embarrassments and failures, embellish professional or educational resumes, and commit acts of stolen valor with regard to military service.
TNT journalists typically use basic public records to check candidate backgrounds. This year, we’re pleased to announce a partnership with a nonprofit group that will do a deeper dive for us, then post the results on its website.
CandidateVerification.org is a reputable Puget Sound organization that works with one of the world's largest screening companies, Sterling Talent Solutions. Overseen by a bipartisan board, CandidateVerification has won praise from Democrats and Republicans alike. It asks folks running for office to consent to a level of scrutiny comparable to what many job applicants go through. And really, that’s what candidates are doing: applying for a job to represent us in government.
The screening includes a multi-state criminal records check, a nationwide review of sex offender registries, plus an inspection of county and federal civil records reaching back 10 years. It also examines any job, school history or other resume credential a candidate agrees to have independently verified.
Think of it like a political Carfax report before you kick the tires on a first-time candidate — or a way to double-check a veteran politician you might’ve seen on a previous ballot. The Spokane Home Builders, one of many clients that uses the nonprofit’s services, describes it as “endorsement insurance for our members.”
We are the first newspaper editorial board in Washington to team up with CandidateVerification. Candidates are free to tell us to buzz off, but we advise them that not participating could affect the endorsement in their race.
The 2017 experiment is off to a good start, as more than half the people we’re scheduled to interview (or already interviewed before the August primary) have signed up for a background check. They understand this is not a game of “gotcha,” rather a chance to demonstrate transparency to voters.
We begin publishing endorsements in a few weeks. We hope you find them helpful when ballots hit your mailbox in late October. The database of background checks found at CandidateVerification.org should also be a useful resource, after more candidates respond.
To the extent that citizens and interest groups can nudge candidates not only to consent to this free screening but also to have the results posted online, we encourage them to do so.
Voters are entitled to know the background of every job prospect who wants to be hired on Nov. 7.
We have a suggestion for those left in the running after today’s primary election ballots are counted.
Those who haven’t already should undergo a free background check provided by CandidateVerification.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Bellevue provides background checks and résumé verification to candidates running for office in the United States.
This is a reasonable step all political hopefuls should take along the campaign trail.
Not only will it give voters more confidence in the electoral process, but it also lets candidates know of possible false information lurking in their history that they can be prepared to address.
In this digital age of such easy access to information, you would think a background check for political candidates would be standard procedure. But that has not been the case, as we unfortunately have seen with some elected officials whose past indiscretions were discovered only after they took office.
For example, State Rep. Graham Hunt, a Republican from Orting, resigned in February amid allegations that he exaggerated his military record. If he had used the CandidateVerification system, the real story would have come out before he was elected.
The CandidateVerification program has joined forces with Ballotpedia and uses one of the nation’s largest employment screening providers, Talentwise. It covers a 10-year criminal records search, a 10-year civil records search, a 10-year employment history, professional credentials and military service.
The organization started only three years ago and is still catching on. We hope that in time it will be used so routinely that it will be suspicious if a political candidate chooses not to use it.
With the amount of mudslinging that goes on in the more contentious races, you would think all the past wrongs of those running for office would be found out. But until now, there was not a tool available as comprehensive as this.
CandidateVerification is the brainchild of David Doud, who ran for a Port of Seattle commission seat in 2009 and lost to Rob Holland, who later resigned from office under a cloud.
Doud realized that a thorough background check may have prevented Holland from being elected in the first place, and so he launched the program in the hope that it would provide more transparency to the election process.
Political hopefuls who participate in the verification program are able to see a copy of the results before they grant permission for them to be included in the CandidateVerification database. If they question the accuracy of the report, they can challenge the results.
For candidates with nothing to hide, getting checked through this system will add to their credibility.
Employers routinely require job applicants to submit to a background check; so do schools seeking volunteers. Consumers can check Carfax before buying a car.
Voters should be able to check on political candidates the same way.
Doud has done a great public service launching this verification program. Now we just need all political candidates to use it.
Read more here: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/opinion/editorials/article93168117.html#storylink=cpy
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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 4254401244
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.Read more