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Senators squirmed and protested today but finally adopted legislation aimed at curtailing all the lies told in election campaigns. The House was all for the "Fair Campaigning Act," voting 89-3
to strengthen the hand of wronged politicians in libel lawsuits against their opponents. But in the Senate State and Local Government Committee this morning, it dawned on the senators that this new law would apply to their campaign lies too.
"Say your state party puts the literature out and they've done the research, and you don't know if it's true or not. I mean, how are you liable?" asked Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville.
Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Kingsport, saw trouble in one of the bill's provisions. Under it, politicians would notify their foes when they've told a lie, and the opponent then is given the opportunity to retract the falsehood. Faulk figured that back-and-forth might draw unwanted media attention.
"My instincts tell me you may be making things worse instead of better," he said. "I'm afraid that this is just going to ratchet up the rhetoric instead of maybe defusing it."
The committee passed the bill eventually because no one wanted to be accused in their next campaign of voting for dirty politics.