From time to time the question arises about whether the Rotary Club of Milwaukee should create a political presence in the community, perhaps by endorsing a candidate or advocating for a political point of view. However, as an organization striving for diverse membership, our members hold a diverse set of political and public policy beliefs and preferences.
If we were to take a straw poll for Governor today, undoubtedly each candidate would have some votes. Although we could select a candidate that represents the majority of our members’ positions, that candidate would not represent the entire club—and the minority view is of equal importance to us. This is consistent with the 4-Way Test that asks us to be sure we “are fair to all concerned” and that we “build goodwill and better friendships”.
The Rotary International Constitution specifically prohibits Rotary Clubs from: endorsing or recommending any candidate for public office; and expressing an opinion on any pending controversial measure.
Nevertheless, Rotarians are expected:
In their clubs, to keep under review political developments in their own communities and throughout the world. They are expected to seek reliable information through balanced programs and discussion so that members can reach their own conclusions;
Outside their clubs, to be active as individuals to promote the awareness of the dignity of all people and the respect of the consequent human rights of the individual.
Political Candidates at Rotary: The RCM Program Committee works hard to offer you thoughtful and provocative discussion of the important issues of the day. We hope that we are doing our part to inform our members, which in turn will create a higher level of discussion in the community.
As part of that effort, we often invite the candidates running in major races to our meetings. In a contested race, we will always extend invitations to the two major candidates. Candidates who accept our invitation should come to inform, not to directly ask for votes or contributions. Like our other speakers, candidates may distribute literature.
We also welcome political candidates to attend meetings or social gatherings as the guests of members. Rotarians can introduce candidates to other members and encourage conversation. However, it is essential to maintain our neutrality. Candidates who come as guests (that is, not invited by the Program Committee) will not be offered time at the podium; nor may they distribute literature, ask for signatures on a petition, overtly ask for votes, or solicit contributions.