Secret Surveys & Private Pledges (Mar. 27, 2014)

The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an editorial that revealed that the California Teachers Association, one of our state’s most powerful special interest groups, compels candidates to answer yes or no to 39 questions on education before the organization will consider an endorsement.

As the paper states, the preferred answers to these questions are obvious in order to gain support. The questionnaire asks the candidate whether he or she would contact the union before endorsing any candidate for local school board races, if they would oppose merit pay/pay for performance for teachers, and if they would oppose the current Parent Trigger law, for example.

Many of these special interest groups tell the candidates that their answers will be kept secret from the public. At the same time, the special interests hold the same campaign pledges made in these questionnaires over the heads of those candidates who are ultimately elected to public office. As the Chronicle declares, “It’s little wonder that even the most modest education reforms are so difficult to achieve in Sacramento. Our elected officials are essentially making secret pledges to protect the status quo before they are even sworn into office.”

That’s simply not right. It’s one of the ways our elected officials have become tools of the special interest groups and not the people they are supposed to serve.

A Democratic candidate for the State Assembly in Walnut Creek, Steve Glazer, has publicly said he opposes these special interests’ surveys because “They’re not made public – and the existence of private promises between special interests and elected officials is a disservice to voters and the legislative process.” According to the article, Glazer is going a step further by “challenging editorial boards to insist that candidates disclose the contents of their questionnaire responses and the pledges they have made.”

The Chronicle says going forward it will not endorse any candidate that refuses to do so. Hopefully, the editorial boards of other newspapers will follow its lead.

If a candidate fills out an issue questionnaire from a special interest group, both the questions as well as the candidates’ answers should be publicly available and posted online on the candidate’s website so the voters have full knowledge of his or her positions and pledges before going to the polls. 

I hope you agree.

P.S. You can read the Chronicle editorial for yourself here:


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