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Pledges Versus Promises: Why I Trust Voters

State Senate Candidate Josh Belinfante on why he does not sign campaign pledges offered by third parties, even when he agrees with them.

Since qualifying to run for the State Senate, many organizations have asked me to sign a “pledge.”  I have respectfully declined signing each of them, even when I agree with their basic tenants.  I hope you will take a moment to understand why. 

Campaign pledges can be broad (e.g., never support a particular type of legislation) or specific (e.g., vote for legislation doing something particular). 

Let me be clear: many good people and organizations ask me to sign pledges.  Most have Georgians’ best interests at heart.  But instead of letting an organization decide how I should vote when elected, I am choosing to rely on the voters in Georgia’s Sixth State Senate District. 

During my time in state government, I witnessed the negative impact of third-party campaign pledges.  Often, the voter is overlooked when an elected official is presented with a vote on an issue covered by a pledge.  Instead, a phone call may be made to an unelected person, sometimes in a different state, to determine which vote -- “yes” or “no” -- the pledge requires.  I believe the legislator should decide whether a vote is consistent with their campaign promise, and if a call is made, it should be directly to the voters.  In short, I will not allow any third party organization to stand between me and the voters of the Sixth Senate District. 

Pledges also tend to force false “all or nothing” decisions that undermine the type of judgment needed daily during the legislative process. For example, we all agree that persons stealing another’s identity should be punished, so imagine that I sign a pledge to crack down on identity fraud. Presume that an anti-identity fraud bill is drafted so broadly that it could turn a college student possessing a fake ID into a felon. I would vote “no.” I do not support the use of fake IDs in college or anywhere else, but I also believe that using a false document to gain entry to a nightclub is very different from using a false document to steal someone’s credit. Nevertheless, my “no” vote would be viewed as violating my pledge, even if I voted “yes” on different legislation that addressed my concerns in the same session. Legislators should not be forced to make this type of false choice.

In summary, my refusal to sign pledges is not a symbol of where I stand on issues.  I may be completely in favor of a particular cause like ethics reform, but I will not sign a pledge about it; instead, my promise is directly to voters.  I have been very transparent about where I am on issues, and I’ve even posted video of my responses to debate questions on my campaign website.  I want to be held accountable by voters, not third parties, and I do not want to restrict my ability to consider bills which will ultimately benefit my constituents.

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C.J. June 12, 2012 at 09:59 PM
I'm not looking for a State Senate candidate who will sign pledges written by outside parties. On the other hand, I am looking for some who will make some pledges of his own. For example, will Mr. Belifante pledge not to accept money or gifts of any value or in any form from anybody seeking to influence legislation in the General Assembly? Will Mr. Belifante pledge to sponsor, co-sponsor, work to pass, and vote for legislation that that would outlaw the ability of all legislators to receive money or gifts of any kind from those seeking to influence legislation? Will Mr. Belifante pledge that he is seeking to get elected to work for his constituents and not to be wined and dined, treated to front-row seats at expensive events, and jetted off to exotic locations under the guise of "legislative business." Pay-to-play under the Gold Dome is off the charts. Unfortunately, unlike in most other states, such corruption is entirely legal in Georgia.
Brian Oravetz June 13, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I second Chris. I'll try to add to his thoughts, but that's a tough one to follow. While I share a party affiliation with you Mr. Belifante, I'm afraid we've reached a point in our country's history where "we the people" cannot afford to extend any trust, whatsoever, to politicians. In this day and age, politicians of every stripe have mastered the use of perception over reality. And they have totally forgotten the adage "the government that governs the least, governs best". Neither party is doing the job intended by the Founders of this country; and it is those foundations that made this country exceptional. The D party, is the party of big government; without exception. The R party is the party of only slightly smaller government than the other guys. Want to make a difference? Start working to roll back legislation and shrinking the size and scope of government through deeds, not words.

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