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History of Background Checks and Elected Officials

Historical document Bill of Rights, American flag and gavel

You might be wondering WHY elected officials are not required to have background checks. What is the history of background checks for political candidates and elected officials? For many reasons, this doesn’t make sense! From our second email, you can see that many employers require background checks. Elected officials supervise people who have background checks-why don’t they have to have them themselves?

A Bit of History

The Founding Fathers knew their political folks. There was little anonymity and certainly, the press was limited in its capacity to investigate and disseminate information. And of course, the Founding Fathers were men of integrity (not perfect men), but they all bought into the mission of the New Republic.

They could not imagine someone in Congress “representing” people and only looking to serve themselves. That brings us to today. It’s an understatement to say we live in different times! Now we do have the capacity to discover all kinds of information about politicians.

The Role of Opposition Research and the Media

Many feel that it should be up to the research of the opposition to “unmask” dishonest candidates; uncover deception or even lies; bring forth unflattering facts, etc. The media also has a role to play in educating the public about candidates running for office. For these reasons, the history of background checks for political candidates is such a short story!

Sadly, due to the budget cuts in the newspaper industry, much of this kind of voter education has fallen by the wayside. So even if the opposition uncovers falsehoods, lies, and resume fabrications, the local press may not give it the attention it might have in the past. This is what happened with the George Santos campaign.

The Future of Background Checks

While there may be agreement among many lawmakers that a background check would be useful, I do not believe that policymakers will ever be able to agree on how this would work. The exception might be some municipalities. I don’t think it’s likely, but this is the only level of government where it might be successful. Of course, this is only my opinion!

This is why I feel so strongly that a voluntary background check, posted by a third party and not the candidate themselves, is the only way to address this problem. This is the role of Transparency In Politics.

Learn about the requirements to run for all offices that serve Washoe County voters in the post “Requirements to Run for Office In Nevada”.

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