GOP Campaigners Can't Lose Sight of Ethics

Three RNC operatives have been found guilty of criminally violating federal communications law for their participation in jamming the Democrats’ phone lines in New Hampshire in 2002.

On the surface, the plan sounded like good old fashioned Lee Atwater "Hardball" politics. Campaigns are tough and if the goal is to outmaneuver your opponent — they certainly succeeded.

In fact, one of them was quoted in the Washington Post saying . . . [it’s] military common sense that if you can’t communicate, you can’t plan and organize."

He’s right. … But the problem is the military analogy isn’t. While political campaigns have some resemblance to war, our enemies are Americans and we are subject to domestic U.S. law. (They say "all’s fair in love and war," but politics isn’t included in that saying — for a reason.)

Of course, the specific problem is that it violated federal communications law — something that I have no problem believing your average political operative who is just trying to win a race would not realize.

Sometimes people just get caught up in this stuff and go along with the crowd. Again, this poses a real problem for young political operatives. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a campaign. And, unless you are a lawyer, how do you know exactly where to draw the line between running an ambitious and aggressive campaign — and breaking the law?  That’s why it’s important to have been trained in leadership and to have a solid philosophical  foundation — before getting involved in the partisan game.

But, here’s the part that nobody else has mentioned: Political operatives (on both sides of the aisle) love to sit around late at night and tell stories of things they’ve done that make this phone-jamming thing look tame. There is a long storied tradition of stuff like this. In fact, there are parts of the country where pulling-off something like this would earn you "bragging rights." The difference, in this case, is that they got caught.

Political operatives should take this as a lesson: We must be careful not to get so caught up in the passion of a campaign that we lose sight of ethics — and the law.