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More than four out of five respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say they would not vote for a politician convicted of any crime involving his or her elected office, or one who was convicted of a felony. Only 14 percent say they would not rule out voting for a disgraced politician.
More than two-thirds said they would not vote again for a politician who resigned from office due to personal conduct.
Several politicians recently have announced plans for comebacks after scandal.
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Sunday declared his intention to run for New York City comptroller. Spitzer resigned in March 2008 after published reports disclosed he had patronized a prostitution ring.
In June, fellow Democrat Anthony Weiner jumped into the race for New York City mayor. Weiner resigned from Congress in disgrace in 2011 after sending inappropriate photographs of himself to women via texts.
In May, Republican Mark Sanford—the former South Carolina governor who left public life after admitting an extramarital affair—won election to his old congressional seat.
Like Weiner and Sanford, Spitzer said he hoped voters would forgive his past behavior. “I sinned, I owned up to it, I looked them in the eye, I resigned, I held myself accountable,” Spitzer said Monday in an interview on CBS’ “This Morning” program.
More than 700 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted May 8 and 9.
Under what circumstances would you never again vote for a disgraced politician?
The politician was convicted of any crime involving his or her elected office: 84%
The politician was convicted of a felony: 84%
The politician resigned from office due to personal conduct: 64%
The politician was convicted of a misdemeanor: 44%
I would not rule out voting again for a disgraced politician: 14%
I think Spitzer, Bill Clinton and many others can cheat on their wives. If they can cheat so close to home (and even in the Oval Office), what can they do to the people who elected them? Trust has no meaning to them.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
Spitzer has to be joking, right?
—Lester Wilson, North Syracuse
In Spitzer’s case, he was prosecuting prostitution while patronizing a prostitute! However, his performance before being governor was exemplary, in my opinion. (When he was) governor, my fears were realized. The description is usually applied to kids in kindergarten, namely, doesn’t play well with others. His dictatorial style didn’t work well as governor. As New York State attorney general and potentially as NYC comptroller, he was and probably will be excellent. We need to concentrate on job performance. So I’m for him.
Eliot Spitzer is probably the only disgraced politician that I would vote for again because of the way that he handled himself when his indiscretion was discovered, and because he was really good at his job. At his core, Spitzer is a good guy.
This is a trick question, right?
—Todd Baker, Pioneer Print & Copy
The sexual peccadillos of politicians may seem irrelevant to some. To me, it is an indication of a character flaw that goes to trustworthiness. In the case(s) of Weiner and Spitzer, the indiscretion was amplified by the nature of the conduct. Far from a simple affair, these two men behaved in a manner that suggests something much worse than just lack of trustworthiness.
—John Calia, CEO coach, Vistage International
I don’t believe that people can compartmentalize their behavior. If they are dishonest, unfaithful, and cheat within their marriage, I have no reason to believe that those same behaviors are (not) occurring in their careers.
I assume prostitution is still a crime since many women are still getting arrested for it. Therefore it’s not just a “sin” or a “private failing” of which Spitzer is guilty; he committed a crime. Have we reached such a low point that this is the best we have to choose from in our elections? The massive deception that it took to carry out what Spitzer did tells me everything I need to know about his true character. I reserve my vote to those whom I at least believe have a decent character in addition to their ability to perform the job. The “do as I say, not as I do” characters are not for me. Plus, if you can’t keep your sacred vows to your wife, what chance does a voter have of holding you to your word?
New York voters have a history of knowingly electing bums. Remember Alan Hevesi. He was elected comptroller despite known improprieties while serving in New York City. Then he was re-elected comptroller after he had defrauded the government of more than $200,000 through personal use of state employees. Is it any wonder that state politicians are (currently) charged with accepting bribes? Indeed, bribes are so endemic in New York that Governor Cuomo’s budget provides that tax rebate checks will be mailed to millions of New Yorkers just weeks before the next statewide election.
Perhaps if ALL elected positions were subject to term limits, more honorable citizens would be attracted to public service, eliminating "career" politicians, and the voters would get to "weed the garden" regularly!
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.
Spitzer and Weiner have both shown poor judgment in their personal conduct, letting lust overtake common sense. How many other areas of their personal and professional lives are warped with bad judgment? No, I would not vote for either one.
—Mary Lynn Vickers, owner, The Phantom Chef PCS
We have got to send a message to politicians that the office they won is not a playground for misdeeds. They need to be extra vigilant about their behavior, performance, appearance, as they are entrusted with our vote to execute the duties they sought. I find it ridiculous that these clowns want to run again!
—Hutch Hutchison, In T'Hutch Ltd.
Don't these two clowns have any shame? They need to go crawl back into their respective corners and hide. They committed crimes, disgraced their families and let down the hard working people of New York. What nerve.
—Dave Iadanza, Farmington
First time, shame on you! Second time shame on me!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” OK, I get that. But Eliott Spitzer was New York’s top cop before he was governor, yet he ran around with prostitutes! Apparently he thought he was above the laws that he enforced on everyone else. Looks like he still thinks that way. Then again, todays Democrat voters seem to reward the bad behavior of their own: the Clintons, Anthony Wiener, Dan Maffei and on and on. If Spitzer was a Republican, the press would be chastising him. Then again, when a Republican resigns in scandal you usually never hear from them again. I believe our elected officials should display strong leadership and set good examples of personal behavior. I guess I'm just old fashioned like the rest of my peers in what they call the "greatest generation.”
—George Thomas, Ogden
These clowns have obviously violated the public trust. You don't look someone in the eye, say you are holding yourself accountable, and then think you deserve the public trust back. However, the public is pathetically stupid due to its extremely short memory. So, they are not accountable nor responsible when they stiff us again. When we as the public wake up, better people will run. Spitzer and his type deserve a second chance; just not as a public servant.
People yuck it about Spitzer being a “john,” but the real offense was in his efforts to cover it up by asking that the bank falsify its wire transfer records showing he was paying thousands to the escort agency. That's a felony, he almost certainly knew it was a felony, yet he did it anyhow. That alone should disqualify him from ever holding office again.
Behaviors by a person who has chosen to be in the public eye, such as a politician, should set an example and a tone for leadership. Of course, this is not the case. We see that over and over again. Nevertheless, regardless of political affiliation, politicians with felony convictions and/or disgraceful personal conduct would not get my vote.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
I am not the “Public Morals Police,” but Sanford, Spitzer and Weiner didn't only cheat, they cheated their wives and they cheated their children. Yet, they have no problem putting their wives and children through the same talk show and newspaper jokes and ridicule all over again. You have to wonder what kind of self-aggrandizing agenda that they must have to do that. I have to wonder if push came to shove would each of them represent our/my best interest or their best interest. Until I could be sure of the right answer I'd vote for the other guy.
If any politician cannot be held above reproach based on their personal or public conduct, they do not deserve support from us. And we must not forget this when we go to the polls. These politicians must stand for high principals at all times, and that means during their past lives, as well. We have seen time and again that there are far too many politicians who are not of this caliber yet after some brief period of time they feel by laying low they should be vindicated and allowed to hold public office again. But they have not done anything to show us that they have earned the right to gain our trust back and run for public office again. We have got to stop putting these kinds of people back into office again.
I can't wait to see the liberal Democratic feminists who yell and scream about an opposition party's "war on women" go out and campaign for these two sexual perverts who had their own "personal" war on women. We need to hold elected officials to a higher standard, both in professional and personal conduct. Would not for either one (nor Mark Sanford of S.C.).
For moral guidance I refer to the philosophers or the clergy, not politicians. Clinton and Spitzer behaved stupidly, but are brilliant. Wiener was juvenile and stupid, but he, too, has a good mind and a true sense of fairness and justice. Those who exploited others while claiming to be righteous I have no use for, especially if they do not reflect my political leanings, for this is, after all, politics.
Due to media scrutiny, many exceptional citizens balk at running for public office because of past indiscretions. But once known, we tend to be a forgiving people, and willing to give a second chance. If the candidate is highly qualified, then I say forgive and move on. Let's take advantage of what the person has to offer.
Disgraced politicians are usually in that position because of serious character flaws. We have had a lot of that in recent years. We need leaders who have the public's interest at heart; and not succumb to their own narcissist tendencies.
—Mike Kaser, Penfield
Yes, no one is perfect and we ALL make mistakes, but the bottom line is that in public office, character matters—or at least it should. If I wouldn't hire a person to represent my business, why would I vote for them to represent me in government? Are there really so few choices that we have to go with people we know we can't trust or respect?
—Mike Schwabl, Dixon Schwabl
These politicians knew very well what they were doing. They do not deserve public office. The lack of morals and ethical conduct must not be rewarded.
—Dennis Kiriazides, retired.
This poll question ignores the so-called “low information voters” and those beholden to a politician or his/her party for the taxpayer funded largesse they mooch from the government, which was provided by the hard-working taxpayers. Also, too many politicians get elected to their office (or reelected) regardless of their level of disgrace because some voters simply vote as mommy and daddy voted. Hopefully, someday, American voters will once again begin voting using their brain.
—Michael F. Kloppel, chairman, Ontario County Conservative Party, Canandaigua
This should be a rhetorical question, but sadly it isn't. Why would anyone vote for these guys after they disgraced their offices and betrayed our trust? Absolutely not.
I would never vote for a disgraced politician—that is not to say they may not be forgiven. By disgracing themselves, they have disqualified themselves. Would you allow a convicted pedophile to babysit your children?
—Steve Wichtowski, Honeoye
When a person has misused the public trust in any way that is it, no do-overs. To many GOOD people want to serve and because of all the political games that are played they can't. We should not have to put up with not having the best serve and politicians that will respect the office they are elected to serve. The two that are mentioned in this poll are done.
—Ken Pamatat, Creative Images Photography
It is important to determine the extent to which the moral and legal aspects of any disgrace relate to the performance of public office. Violent or other serious conduct should be afforded significant weight in judging the redemption of a disgraced politician.
—Nathan J. Robfogel
Our politicians should be held to high standards; clearly that is not the state of our political arena these days. High morals and strict ethics should be the guiding behaviors for our elected officials. If a politician (or any citizen for that matter) does not demonstrate these characteristics they should not be trusted to represent the public at large. Too many politicians believe they are above the standards and rules society generally lives by; it is offensive and outrageous. That being said, if a politician/person is not trustworthy, they still do deserve the chance to earn that trust back. However, that opportunity should not be taking place in the public arena with taxpayer dollars at stake.
—L.S. Decker, MVP Health
Morality still matters, especially for those depending on the public trust to be effective. Voters to whom morality doesn't matter do get what they deserve—a politician who can't be trusted. But then, maybe when burned themselves, they may begin to think that it might just matter after all. And thus the pendulum swings.
—Diane Harris, president, Hypotenuse Enterprises Inc.
IF infidelity and prostitute patronage and a harsh personality are factors to be used to exclude someone from public service, many seats now held by incumbents should be empty. I say we should be glad that Spitzer wants to put his skills, knowledge and experience to work in public service! That is quite brave and honorable of him! How many of us would just go away and hide after resigning in disgrace from such a personal issue?
—David Alan Gregory
Politicians are human and can be allowed to make mistakes that don't involve their official capacity. In the case of both Spitzer and Weiner, their misdeeds were of a personal nature. If their spouses can forgive them, so can I. Both examples are of men with big egos, but also excellent skills for their choice of elected office and could be effective for the City of New York. I won't forgive corruption or financial malfeasance. I also need to be convinced that the individual is sincere in asking for forgiveness.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester
I would not vote for a politician found guilty of political corruption. Sanford was traveling and seeing his mistress on the taxpayers’ dime. Spitzer and prostitution? It's the world's oldest profession for a reason, and I could care less. Spitzer knew how Wall Street worked, how they were putting taxpayers, investors and pension funds at risk, and was still going after it when he resigned. The worst of the financial collapse might have been different. John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Bill may never have been introduced in 1963, later passed by LBJ, if JFK was forced out due to his affairs. There is at least one dalliance as well as a love of martinis by FDR during Prohibition. With the help of our corporate "free press," we have decriminalized corruption to focus on judging personal morality because it sells to the public and that's where the money is. Public honesty, a public ethical code of conduct that includes fiduciary responsibility and transparency, of course. Perceived failures in their personal lives based on a national or personal morality? Generally not relevant. That code should be demanded by the religious for their clergy.
—Jim Bertolone, Rochester AFL-CIO
Who writes these questions? Why is the word “again” used? Using your question design, only people who voted for a disgraced politician should participate in the poll. How likely is that? Exercises like this give professional market researchers and pollsters angina.
—Jim Antonevich, Metrix Matrix, Inc.
7/12/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.