The website Politico — which covers politics, naturally enough — reported this week about an escalation in opposition research that should concern Americans of all political persuasions.

For those who aren’t familiar with what campaign strategists call oppo, it usually involves researching an opponent’s public history to dig up videos, statements or other public facts that can be used to cast the target’s qualifications into doubt.

Politics being a contact sport, there’s nothing unethical about those activities, and voters can be responsible for sorting out the claims they produce, just as they are for any other political ad.

Until recently, however, unless something in a candidate’s private life entered the public sphere on its own, a line was drawn between the personal and political that was very rarely crossed.

That seems to be behind us now, however.

Candidates are used to having opponents’ representatives film their speeches and other public actions, hoping to find a gaffe or other slipup that would provide fodder for an attack ad. According to a Politico report titled “GOP unnerved by Democrats’ candid camera tactics,” however, cameramen have been lurking around several Republican congressional candidates’ private homes and posting the videos, with addresses, on the Internet.

The purpose appears to be to show that these candidates live in nice, well-kept houses, and thus are (in the minds of their opponents) unable to sympathize with the poor.

In order to judge that fully, however, voters also would have to see the homes that the Democrats live in — and if this scandalous invasion of privacy continues, there is little doubt that they soon will.

We already have had one member of Congress, Gabrielle Giffords, shot by a deranged stalker. That happened during a public appearance; enabling would-be assassins to track potential targets to their homes puts not only the candidates in danger, but their families as well.

This unethical — and dangerous — practice should stop now. And if it does not, it offers adequate reason by itself to vote against those who permit it to be done in their names.

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