Ballotpedia:Criminal behavior and scandal policies

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Lucy Burns Institute (LBI) staff follow the following policies when reporting about criminal behavior and scandals. It is recommended that volunteer wiki writers also follow the same policies. If you have any questions about the below guidelines please email us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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Criminal behavior

Criminal behavior can include a DUI, a conflict of interest, or any other criminal charge or allegation. Such information should be included on the official's profile page according to the following guidelines. The story should be placed under the "In the news" h2 section header and should be given its own descriptive sub-heading.

LBI staff policy on criminal allegations

It is the policy of the Lucy Burns Institute that if an LBI staffer adds information to any websites sponsored by LBI that alleges, maintains or asserts that someone has been arrested, indicted, charged with or convicted of a crime, they must alert their direct supervisor of the addition immediately upon making such an edit or edits. This policy pertains only to paid employees of the Lucy Burns Institute.

When to include

  • Always include current criminal allegations news for current officeholders, as well as current candidates.
  • Past criminal behavior can be included only if it is relevant to present concerns.
Example: An official is seeking to draft legislation that increases the penalties for drunk driving but the media discovers that the same official was convicted of a DUI himself ten years ago.

What to do if...

...an opponent in an election mentions the officeholder's bad behavior from before they took office.

Mention the criminal behavior, but do so under the relevant "Election" section on the officeholder's page rather than in the "In the news" section.


...the matter is settled out of court.

Assuming a summary of the incident has already been added to the "In the news" section, simply add the following standard line to the end of the story: "This dispute was settled out of court on DATE."


...the matter is an allegation of criminal behavior, rather than a conviction.

  • Include the story in the "In the news" section only if a formal allegation of criminal behavior has been made.
  • Cite the formal or legal documents that reference the allegations according to standard guidelines.

Misconduct

Misconduct violations occur when an official (often a judge) violates ethical standards, such as a code of conduct. This is not criminal behavior and does not require the services of law enforcement, but often results in a disciplinary hearing that may result in reprimand, suspension or even termination. Misconduct may also lead to a recall.

The guidelines for misconduct news are the same as those for criminal behavior news, with the following additions:

  • Include a response from the official or the official's lawyer
  • State who filed the complaint
  • Include the potential consequences if allegations are proven true
  • Add category: "Misconduct, YEAR" or "Misconduct, MONTH YEAR"
Such categories should be added to the project's misconduct parent category. (e.g. "Judicial misconduct")

Updates

Add the appropriate Article Improvement Tag for the relevant project to remind writers to check for new developments periodically. See list below. If project is unknown, add {{Update}} or {{JP update}}.

Update tags by project   
Ballotpedia
Project Tag
Congress {{cong update}}
Elections {{election update}}
History {{history update}}
Local ballot measures {{lbm update}}
Recall {{recall update}}
School bonds and taxes {{school update}}
State ballot measures {{sbm update}}
State Constitutions {{cons update}}
State Executive Officials {{seo update}}
State Legislatures {{state leg update}}
Judgepedia
Project Tag
Bankruptcy {{banks update}}
Federal Judiciary {{fed update}}
Judicial Elections {{elec update}}
State Supreme Courts {{supremes update}}
State Intermediate Appellate Courts {{inter update}}
State Trial Courts {{trials update}}

Personal scandal

Personal scandal is defined as an action or event that is regarded as morally or ethically suspect and receives some public attention, outrage and news coverage. Examples would be an extramarital affair, nude pictures or racially or religiously charged comments. If an action or event results in criminal or formal ethical or misconduct changes, it is to be written about under the guidelines presented in the policy relating to criminal behavior and misconduct.

Personal scandals are to be covered as they speak to the trustworthiness and judgement of an individual. Though not all readers will find every personal scandal important or relevant, other readers may disagree. It is our intention to provide information in the most complete and unbiased way possible, allowing the reader to decide if that piece of information is important to them.

Information about personal scandals should be included on the official's profile page according to the following guidelines. The story should be placed under the "In the news" h2 section header and should be given its own descriptive sub-heading.

When to include

  • Always include current personal scandals for current officeholders, as well as current candidates.
  • Past personal scandals should be included only if relevant to the current news or personal situations of a candidate or elected official.
Example: A candidate or official is running for election on a family values campaign, and is discovered to have had a string of extramarital affairs over the past decade.

What to do if...

...an opponent in an election mentions the candidate's or officeholder's personal scandals from before they took office.

Mention the scandal, but do so under the relevant "Election" section on the candidate's or officeholder's page rather than in the "In the news" section.


...a personal scandal results in criminal or formal ethical or misconduct changes.

The guidelines relating to Criminal behavior and misconduct should then be used.


...the scandal includes a variety of allegations, but no hard evidence exists (i.e. an alleged mistress emerges in the press, but there is no corroborating evidence and the candidate or officeholder has not admitted to the scandal).

  • Include the story in the "In the news" section only if hard evidence or an admission of involvement has been made. Sources should be cited according to standard guidelines.

Updates

Add the appropriate Article Improvement Tag for the relevant project to remind writers to check for new developments periodically. See list below. If project is unknown, add {{Update}} or {{JP update}}.

Update tags by project   

Family scandal is defined as an action or event that is regarded as morally or ethically suspect and receives some public attention, outrage and news coverage. The family scandal policy gives the guidelines for writing about such matters when they pertain to family members of officials rather then to the officials themselves. Scandal directly related to an official in question, or that reaches a point where it affects the official's candidacy or standing, should be written about according to the "Personal scandal" guidelines.

News items concerning scandal within the family of an individual profiled on Ballotpedia or Judgepedia may be placed in the "External links" section of the individual profiled as it is reasonable to believe that such information may of interest to readers of the site(s). In certain rare cases, family scandals may directly relate to a candidate's or official's election, official duties, etc. In this instance, the information should be placed on the candidate's page under the "Personal" section, with the subheading "In the news." See an example here.

The link should be cited according to standard guidelines and be placed at the bottom of the list of links. If there is more than one external link related to news about a profiled person's family member(s), they should be arranged chronologically, with the most current on top.

When to include

Always include notable, current family scandals for current officeholders, as well as current candidates for office.

Example

Live example on the Don Chairez profile.

Static example from the Don Chairez profile:

External links

Ballot Measures Project

For the Ballot Measures Project, guidelines are somewhat different. If there are news items about scandal which is tangential to the topics covered by the Ballot Measures Project, but still such that a reader might reasonably expect to see that information on Ballotpedia, a link to the news items can be added to the "Additional reading" section of the page. The link should be cited according to standard guidelines and be placed at the bottom of the list of links.

Campaign attacks

Campaign attacks, colloquially referred to as "mud-slinging," occur when one or more candidates in a race attempt to discredit their opponent(s) by publicizing and highlighting facts that cast the other candidate(s) in an unfavorable light. These attacks do not usually focus on criminal behavior, or even misconduct; rather they tend to focus on more vague issues which voters might find unappealing. Mud-slinging is often used by a candidate to try and brand their opponent in a manner that will weaken the opponent's campaign and/or bolster the mud-slinger's. Mud-slinging often occurs on both sides of a race, though this is not always the case.

When to include

Instances of mud-slinging should be included on the pages of all candidates involved in the incident, be they on the throwing or receiving end. The information regarding the incident(s) should be heavily cited and documented in the "Race background" section of the candidates' profiles.

Example

Mud-slinging was a prominent issue in the 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court race between Michael Gableman and Louis Butler. Both candidates, as well as their supporters and outside groups, ran negative campaign ads about the other. Butler's supporters called into question Gableman's ethics as a prosecutor, while Gableman's claimed that Butler found a loophole that let a child molester go free, subsequently resulting in the molestation of another child.[1]

Ballot measures project

For the ballot measures project, the guidelines are somewhat different, as this project covers topics, not individuals. However, mud-slinging can still occur throughout the course of ballot measure campaigns. When this occurs, the information should be included in the "Support" and "Opposition" sections, respectively. Arguments used to discredit a ballot measure effort should be detailed in the "Opposition' section. Rebuttals used to discredit arguments against a particular measure should be detailed in the "Support" section.

The following are examples of how these subject matters may be integrated into a candidate's page. The examples feature the fictional candidate, John Smith, who is running for mayor of "Townville." It is important to provide as many citations as possible, given the sensitivity of the subject matter.

Personal scandal example

In the news

Lewd photos

On Monday, September 2, 2013, Smith admitted that he texted lewd photographs to women he met on the internet, confirming the report published by the Townville Tribune. Smith held a press conference on Tuesday, September 2, 2013, saying, "I deeply regret the inappropriate behavior that I engaged in. This behavior is no longer going on, and my wife and I are currently attending therapy in an attempt to fix our marriage." Smith chose not to drop out of the race for mayor.

Criminal behavior and misconduct example

In the news

DUI arrest

On Monday, September 2, 2013, the Townville Tribune revealed that Smith was arrested and cited for a DUI during a family trip to California on October 10, 1990. He received a fine of $1,000 and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service, which he completed. This news comes on the heels of Smith's press conference last month, during which he vowed to fight for stricter punishments for those convicted of driving under the influence. Smith has not released a statement about the incident since the article was published.

Family scandal example

Please see the example listed on the Family scandal tab for further information.

Fictional scenario: Smith's daughter posed for Playboy Magazine two years before he announced his candidacy for mayor. Links to news stories about this incident should be placed on Smith's page under the "External links" section.

Campaign attacks example

Election

Negative campaign ads

Smith's opponent, Jane Doe (I), ran a series of negative television commercials criticizing Smith's actions when he was the CEO of Company, Inc. In the commercials, Doe claimed that Smith's actions during his tenure as CEO led the company to shut down five years later, leaving several hundred people without jobs. Smith blasted these claims as untrue, and said that the company's failure was due to poor management after he left. Smith, in turn, ran several negative radio ads claiming that Doe was a hypocrite because she championed public schools and their teachers during campaign speeches, while her children were attending private schools.

Note: These instances of "mud-slinging" would appear on both candidates' pages under the "Election" heading.