A copy of the “COPS Voter Guide,” a slate mailer urging votes for certain candidates and ballot measures, recently landed on my desk, reminding me how wary voters should be of such things.
Use of the word “COPS” in big print, and the badge logo that accompanies it, seem to imply that law enforcement is endorsing these candidates and measures. That’s not true.
The COPS Voter Guide is a business: It sells endorsements. Its online “endorsement form” simply asks a candidate check a box to “agree that public safety is a top priority for public service. As an elected official, I will uphold the laws and work with California Law Enforcement on issues of mutual concern. This pledge does not commit me to any issue positions, nor does it mean that the COPS VOTER GUIDE agrees with me by endorsing all of my issue positions.”
It’s run by Moran & Associates, a Folsom-based political consulting firm; I left messages for company President Kelley Moran, but haven’t heard back from him.
This one – designed for Democratic voters – looks to me as if Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown is the only candidate who didn’t pay to be on it, as he’s the only one without an asterisk next to his name; the mailer’s fine print says “Appearance is paid for and authorized by each candidate and ballot measure which is designated by an *”
So the mailer urges the recipient to vote for Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor. Yet when I look at Newsom’s endorsement page under the heading “public safety,” I see three firefighters’ organizations but not a single police group. His rival, however – Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn – has been endorsed by the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and several LA-area police groups.
Similarly, Democratic candidate for Attorney General Pedro Nava, an Assemblyman from Santa Barbara, is on the mailer. The only law enforcement endorsements he lists on his website are Ventura County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the Ventura County Peace Officers Association, plus a few local sheriffs and police chiefs. Yet Ted Lieu, the Assemblyman from Torrance and one of Nava’s six rivals for the Democratic nomination, actually has the endorsements of the California Peace Officers Association, the California Police Chiefs Association and nine other law enforcement groups.
It’s not illegal for a candidate to pay a slate mailer for an endorsement, or for a mailer to solicit such payments. But voters should read the fine print and discern the endorsements that a candidate has bought from the endorsements that a candidate has earned.