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A “vetter” is an individual or team responsible for conducting thorough background checks and investigations into the qualifications and suitability of a candidate or appointee.

The vetting process usually involves examining public records, interviewing associates, and scrutinizing the subject’s financial, legal, and ethical standing.

Vetters play a crucial role in ensuring that candidates and appointees can withstand public and media scrutiny, thereby minimizing the risk of future controversies or scandals that could derail a campaign or administration.

More on “Vetter”

A specialized form of operative who does the work of combing the backgrounds of candidates for high office, including the vice presidency and Supreme Court judgeships.

The importance of vetting has grown as politics has become both more combative and competitive. Recounting the missed opportunity of picking up a Senate seat in Delaware in 2010, former Bush White House political guru Karl Rove lamented in a speech that Republican Christine O’Donnell—of “dabbled in witchcraft” fame—was a losing candidate who required better vetting.

A successful vetting can be highly discomforting. “You just have to know going in that it’s totally invasive,” former Indiana Democratic senator Evan Bayh, who was considered as Barack Obama’s 2008 running mate, told GQ magazine’s Jason Zengerle in 2012. “It’s like having a colonoscopy, except they use the Hubble telescope on you.” Zengerle himself submitted to the process after filling out a fifty-four-part biographical questionnaire. He recounted some of the questions asked by Ted Frank, a Republican attorney: “Have you ever had a homosexual encounter? Could a rogue IT guy have access to a sex tape or anything like that?”

From Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes © 2014 Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.

Use of “Vetter” in a sentence

  • The campaign’s vetters missed a critical detail in the candidate’s financial history, leading to a damaging news cycle that eroded public trust.
  • Before announcing his choice for Vice President, the candidate relied heavily on a team of skilled vetters to sift through the shortlist of potential running mates.
  • The administration’s vetters have been working overtime to ensure that their new policy proposal is bulletproof against both legal challenges and political criticisms.