Joe Beery ’20, Alexis Carra ’20, and Emily Viola ’21, students in Fordham Law’s Democracy and Constitution Clinic wrote an op-ed, published in Medium, arguing that presidential background checks are necessary and would provide useful information to voters.
Picture a crisp D.C. morning on January 21, the first day of a new presidential administration. An optimistic, likely somewhat nervous president is surrounded by national security officials in the Oval Office for his first intelligence briefing in office. Some of the nation’s most closely held secrets are discussed. Everyone in the room has undergone a background check to receive the highest-level security clearance, except one: the president.
The political parties could make undergoing background checks a requirement for participating in primary debates. To accommodate privacy concerns, the parties might only require disclosure of the results to the parties, not the general public. But there is a risk that political parties may not be interested in subjecting their candidates to potentially damaging background checks.
The Federal Election Commission might request background checks from candidates when they declare their candidacies and impose a $10,000 fine on any candidate unwilling to cooperate. This proposal, originally recommended by Fordham Law’s Democracy and the Constitution Clinic, would not prevent non-compliant candidates from continuing to participate in the primary process. Instead, failure to pay would inform the electorate that the candidate is unwilling to undergo a background check at a substantial monetary cost.
The president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world; an individual exposed to highly classified information, yet inexplicably excused from a background check. This does a disservice to American voters who should cast their ballots knowing that all members of their government are held to the same high standard of integrity.