Thursday, February 13, 2014

My take on the Gooden background check story

Kaufman TEA Party folks backing (my friend) Stuart Spitzer are really pushing a story this week about incumbent representative Lance Gooden's office, which apparently pulls some internet and/or public records info on people before responding to them.

So underneath the campaign rhetoric and hyperbole, is this a problem?

Like most election year stories, I think yes and no.

In short, Leigh Pool, who serves as district director for Gooden, seems to have inadvertently sent a reply to a constituent, Billy van Voast, that was meant to go to Gooden.

Here was the email...  (See the whole exchange here)

My initial reaction after talking to van Voast (Gooden has not responded) was that this was merely Pool doing her job and informing Gooden about who was trying to get his attention. Verifying that a person lives in the district and isn't just trolling for a reaction from an elected official during a primary election battle seems legitimate.

Then the problems with this mounted in my mind.

First, it does seem a bit odd for someone at this level of politics to want this much information before responding to constituent requests.  Considering Gooden's lack of attendance at other candidate forums, it seems a simple "no" probably would have sufficed without the trouble of checking out Mr. van Voast.

Second, this illustrates how absolutely wrong information from the internet can be.  The information that Pool was relaying (and, presumably, what Gooden would have in mind if he responded to van Voast) was incorrect.  It was for van Voast's father.  Bad information leads to bad decisions.  It seems a few more questions to van Voast himself would have been a much better tactic.

Finally, while I don't think Gooden was trying to bully van Voast as the press release makes it seem, there is an element of big-brother-ism about this.  The idea that your representative may check you out on the internet (and be very wrong) is not comforting, and can put people off from being active participants in government.

OK, so is this a big deal?

Yes it is, and probably more widely practiced than we would want to know. I doubt this is something isolated to Lance Gooden, as he hasn't exactly been one to be innovative in policies or politics.

Again, Gooden has not responded to me (or anyone else that I know of) about this…  I will update if I hear from him or see a response elsewhere.

What say you?  At what level of elected office does getting access to a politician warrant an internet search on constituents?

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