As the primary election season draws to a close, voters are being bombarded with slate mailers, a legally recognized way in California to fool some of the people some of the time. More than 80 such efforts are registered with the California Secretary of State. Further down in this column I’ll give a shout out to some of the other hinky happenings this year.
These mailings, which don’t come from political parties, unions, or business groups, typically start of listing a few well-known candidates running for high profile offices. To the untrained eye, most appear to come from organizations with names suggesting a legitimate interest group or point of view. All contain the legally mandated disclosure explaining the sender is “not an official political party organization.” Slate mailers sometimes call themselves voter guides and the only way a curious voter can tell the difference is by looking for the legally mandated disclosure.
These mass mailings are funded by selling ‘endorsements’ to various campaigns. Often times candidates buy in as a means of keeping their opponent from gaining exposure. It’s not unusual for the mix of candidates supported by a slate mailer to seem illogical, especially if you’re reasonably well-informed on politics.
The Sacramento Bee pointed out the absurdity of the lineups promoted in this year’s crop of flyers:
The “Woman’s Voice Newsletter” leads with an endorsement of Travis Allen, a Republican assemblyman once accused of sexual harassment, as California’s next governor. Sen. Ricardo Lara, Allen’s liberal opposite, gets a nod for his insurance commissioner bid on the same slate mailer.
Another piece of campaign mail, called the “Progressive Voter Guide,” backs Antonio Villaraigosa. He’s running a gubernatorial campaign considered further from the left than any other top Democrat in the race.
How did the candidates earn endorsements on the slate mailers piling up in your mailbox? Simple. They paid for them.
Here’s the deal: slate mailer campaigns are most effective with voters who are less engaged and informed. And best of all, for campaigns with limited budgets, they’re cheap.
From a study published in 2001 in the Journal of Law & Politics:
Although some of the causes advocated on a slate mailer — presidential, senatorial and gubernatorial candidates and an occasional well-publicized proposition — are typically known to voters, most of the candidates and propositions on the slate are not. By means of the prominent causes that are advocated and the symbols and messages contained on the slate, the slate identifies itself with a broader cause or point of view.
So the idea is to hope voters identify with a big name candidate or the generic name of the promoter and look no further. Take, for instance, the “Latino Family Voter Guide” featuring paid spots for mostly non-Latino candidates. Two of the major Latino statewide candidates are noticeably absent—John Chiang is featured instead of Antonio Villaraigosa and Dave Jones appears instead of Xavier Becerra.
The ever-increasing role of independent expenditures in elections is making this sort of deceptive–but legal–propaganda even more common.
The “Cops Voter Guide” has Democrats John Chiang, Dave Jones, Nathan Fletcher, and Matt Strabone buying slots, which just might confuse voters into marking ballots for Republicans Summer Stephan and Bill Gore, who along with Diane Feinstein and Superintendent candidate Marshall Tuck didn’t pay to appear. Those “non-payers” are, I think, the real intended beneficiaries of the mailer, aimed at Democratic voters.
The California Republicans Taxpayers Association slate mailers include many of the names you’d expect to see on a GOP flyer, including Congressman Devin Nunes, and Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidate John Cox. One name you might not expect to find on this slate mailer is Superintendent candidate Marshall Tuck. The Edvoice for the Kids PAC, funded by Walmart heirs, paid nearly $25,000 to include Tuck’s (who says he’s a Democrat) name. This is logical given the support of pro-charter school billionaires for Tuck.
The Voter Guide Slate Cards’s mailer is packaged as a “Democratic Voter Guide,” and while most of the candidates are Democrats, not all are endorsed by the Democratic Party. Lori Saldana (she did not pay to be listed) is their choice for the 4th District Board of Supervisor’s seat; Nathan Fletcher is the local Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate.
And the real low point among the slate mailers I’ve received comes via “The Coalition for Literacy,” an outfit out of Torrance. Under the header of “Educate Your Vote” Gavin Newsom, Eleni Kounalakis, Dave Jones, and Ricardo Lara –all solid liberal choices–appear. And the next name on the list is Gary Kreep, the Superior Court Judge running for re-election whose bizarre behavior and conspiracist point of view have united people across the political spectrum in supporting his opponents.
So pay attention folks. There are plenty of legit voter guides out there ready to inform your choices, including the SDFreePress, Indivisible, KPBS/Voter’s Edge, the local Democratic Party, along with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council.
If you’ve seen posts on Facebook recently from a seemingly innocuous group calling itself Community Voices SD, you probably didn’t think they were a Republican group looking to influence your vote.
On Tuesday evening I noticed a sponsored post by this group on my Facebook newsfeed referring me to a negative story about Nathan Fletcher. Sponsored posts allow Facebook accounts to present messages to targeted audiences. It’s an effective and inexpensive form of paid advertising.
I’m familiar with this form of marketing because the San Diego Free Press utilizes it to promote our weekly Progressive Activist Calendar and, on occasion articles we believe deserve wider exposure. Our average bill is less than $100 monthly.
There’s nothing wrong with sponsoring posts. It’s just that Facebook has a policy of requiring election campaign advertisers to disclose their funding. Maybe what Community Voices SD says on their Facebook ‘About’ page qualifies, I don’t know:
Paid for by Community Voices San Diego Sponsored by The Lincoln Club of San Diego County.
Committee major funding from: Coastal Communities Supporting Lorie Zapf for Council 2018. Sponsored by San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action committee and The Lincoln Club of San Diego County and Independent Leadership Coalition Supporting Chris Cate for Council 2018. Sponsored by San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee and The Lincoln Club of San Diego County. This advertisement was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.
This isn’t about having an opinion; it’s about political campaigns spending money to influence voters opinion. I also figure this “group” is about spending some of the $300,000 parked by the Chamber/Lincoln Club in accounts to support the campaigns of Lori Zapf and Chris Cate since it appears as though their incumbent status will prevail come November.
On Wednesday morning, after I’d alerted people via social media to the connection between Community Voices SD and the Lincoln Club, this post and others disappeared from the group’s Facebook page. My warning was passed along early and often by others.
Educate yourself, folks! “Community Voices SD” are not real community voices from San Diego. It’s bought-and-paid-for political ads from deep-pocketed special interests that brought you bigots like Donald Trump, et al. #educatedvoter #ivoted https://t.co/QWcBCpxEJP
— Ryan Trabuco (@RyanTrabuco) May 30, 2018
Last week a spokesman for the Lincoln Club blamed the lack of disclosure on recently updated Facebook policies requiring sponsored committee names in political ads. KPBS says some later ads included such a disclosure. The one I saw on Tuesday didn’t. And now they’re all gone.
Fortunately, CommunityVoicesSD didn’t delete all their videos, and what I found there was puzzling until you realize who their targeted audience is: a negative video reposted from 10news about DA candidate Genevieve Jones-Wright and two from “progressive” Nathan Fletcher’s site.
Remember folks, the word ‘progressive’ equals the mark of the devil in the universe inhabited by the Lincoln Club and their cronies.
What candidate polling at the bottom thinks will get him votes…
If you got a mailer in the 50th congressional district from candidate Josh Butner, you might have been fooled into thinking his Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar was a supporter of Donald Trump and his immigration policies.
This misrepresentation, or ‘lie’, as I like to call it, was called out by KPBS.
The mailer makes claims about another Democratic challenger, Ammar Campa-Najjar, and alleges he supported President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
The words are next to a smiling picture of Trump and Campa-Najjar. Butner’s mailer reads “Ammar Campa-Najjar pledged to work with Donald Trump. He even defended Trump’s Muslim ban and called it ‘sensible.'”
Butner’s mailer goes on to say, “Congress needs to stand up to Trump, not help him. We can’t risk Ammar Campa-Najjar advancing more of Trump’s agenda.”
Butner’s campaign has turned out to be the second most dirty campaign (behind the joint Lincoln Club/Kasparian/Bonnie Dumanis effort) of this election cycle. It’s really not all that surprising, given the support of olde tyme Democrats for Butner.
From Roll Call:
I hardly think it’s a coincidence that a story appeared in an Israeli newspaper some months ago, touting Campa-Najjar’s grandfather (who the candidate never met) as a terrorist. The account appeared just prior to the California Democratic Party’s convention but failed to impress party activists who endorsed Campa-Najjar.
As is true in most campaigns, once the waters are muddied, both sides have directly or indirectly made below the belt attacks. A site calling Butner a “Republican spoiler” was denounced by candidate Campa-Najjar. The Butner campaign, on the other hand, has failed to distance itself from underhanded attacks.
If you are a Dem candidate running against other Dem candidates for congress and you find yourself having to rely on dirty tricks, lies and negative campaigning, do the right thing and DROP OUT. We have one shot to save this country – don’t just think about yourself. pic.twitter.com/JVT14QQnYh
— Fire Duncan Hunter (@FLIPCA50) May 30, 2018
If you received a mailer last week attacking Supervisor candidate Nathan Fletcher featuring a union printing logo, a post office box as a return address, and no disclosure about who paid for it, you might not realize it was coming from a PAC supporting Lori Saldana as part of a strategy to get Republican candidate Bonnie Dumanis elected in the fall.
Lincoln Club President Brian Pepin told KPBS the failure to include credit for who was paying for the ad was a mistake.
“There was an internal miscommunication during the production of that mailer which caused the problem with the disclaimer,” Pepin said in an email. “The committee immediately self-reported the issue to the (state Fair Political Practices Commission) as soon as it arrived in mailboxes and we became aware of the problem. All of our other mail has consistently included disclaimers and will continue to do so.”
Riiight. All those other highly scripted and slickly produced mailers coming out of the Lincoln Club managed to include the disclosure, but this one somehow didn’t… and I have some discount coupons for Coronado Bridge tolls to sell you…
The resignation of Jodi Remke as chairwoman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission and other turmoil among members of its governing panel certainly doesn’t bode well for the possibility of consequences for the Lincoln Club.
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