In last night’s 1st District congressional debate, the GOP candidates variously referred to each others’ campaign claims about themselves and about their opponents as false, misleading, “masquerading” (Sali on Vasquez) and a “flat-out lie” (Vasquez on Sali). So, isn’t it illegal somehow for candidates to lie in their campaigning? Eye on Boise posed that question today to both the Federal Election Commission and the Idaho Secretary of State, and in both cases got the same answer.
“That’s politics,” said Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. “There’s libel and slander and all this stuff, but ‘false campaigning’ is nothing that we have anything on the books on – and one person’s falsehood is another one’s truth. We don’t have a truth in campaigning law.” Though, he added, “You would hope people would” tell the truth when they’re trying to win public office.
Ian Stirton, FEC spokesman, said there’s no federal anti-lying campaign law either. “If that were true, then of course a lot of people would be in trouble,” he said with a chuckle. “You can imagine if every statement had to pass a certain truth test, there would be a lot of work there.” But the FEC mainly just deals with financial issues regarding campaigns, he said. States are free to regulate the actual conduct of elections, which he said is “a state matter, not a federal matter.”
“It’s an interesting question, but I don’t think I can be of much assistance to you in that area,” Stirton said.