Michigan Truth Squad offers valuable public service

Voters need all the good information they can get
Let’s hope that public pressure can lift political campaigns to a higher level of truth and decency. They sure need it.

The Center for Michigan, a nonpartisan organization, is performing a worthwhile service for voters by launching the Michigan Truth Squad to scrutinize political claims and trying to shed some much-needed light on campaign rhetoric.

Phil Power, who spent nearly 40 years in the newspaper business, founded the Center — of which he is president — in 2006.

“We hope to get rid of the false, misleading, irrelevant, hyperpartisan and personalized ads which do nothing to improve our unhealthy political culture,” Power said.

He hopes they can help encourage a healthy discussion of the issues that are on the minds of voters.

Journalists Rick Haglund and Susan Demas, both longtime watchers of state politics, are staffing the Truth Squad, which dissects campaign material and acts as a referee, calling “fouls” on ads and candidates when warranted. This team is focused on the candidates and campaigns in the statewide races for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, Michigan state House and Senate as well as campaigns in favor or, or opposed to, any question that might qualify for the statewide general election ballot.

Citizens can report any questionable material to the Truth Squad and they will check it out. Then they report their findings, point by point, and conclude with a finding of “no foul” or a range of fouls from the most flagrant to a warning for statements that could misconstrued but are generally truthful.

“For too long,” the Truth Squad website states, “some Michigan politicians and their consultants have stretched the truth, broken trust with voters, and ignored the consequences of their campaigns.

“The result is undue mistrust in our political process, one that is ultimately controlled by voters — ideally, informed voters like you who are taking the time to learn about the issues and the people who will represent them in our representative democracy.”

Even with all the information that’s out there now, the truth may be difficult to discern.

A campaign may be accurate as far as its claims, but flawed because of its omissions.

The outcome of the primary in August and general election in November are critical to the future of Michigan, so voters need good, accurate information upon which to base their decisions.

In past years, a regular feature called “ad watch” provided scrutiny of campaign claims. The Michigan Associated Press will continue to provide that coverage this year.

But the Michigan Truth Squad is providing voters with yet another credibility check — we think a good one.