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Lies, damn lies and slate mailers

By enelson
Monday, November 6th, 2006 at 6:07 pm in AC Transit, Funding, Misc. Transportation.


I freely admit the redundancy of what I write here, but I don’t think this can be said often enough: Those election slates arriving in your mailbox are some of the most deceptive campaign advertising there is.

Hard to believe that any implement of political prevarication could make that claim, but these pieces of San Fernando Valley-style fantasy literature are so misleading they are routinely disavowed by the very candidates they advertise.

What’s this got to do with transportation? In this case, I was delighted to learn, Rebecca “Reb” Kaplan, AC Transit at-large incumbent board member, and Elsa Ortiz, who is running for the Ward 3 seat on the same body, both appear to have paid for their spots on a mailer I just received from our political writer, Josh Richman.

Nothing against the candidates. Advertising in slate mailers is the campaign advertising equivalent of taking the bus instead of driving alone. That’s good, right? They reach a lot of voters, oftentimes strategically targeted (in this case, from the looks of the thing, registered Democrats).

But here’s the rub. Like the bus, anybody who pays the fare can ride, and often the seats are filled with dummies of people who are actually riding limousines to their victory parties.

What am I talking about? This mailer is called the “Team for Democratic Voters,” and lists all the democratic voters at the top of the ticket, from Phil Angelides for governor down to … what’s this? Steve Young?


Ahh, Steve Young, Democratic candidate with not a chance of beating Orange County Republican John Campbell. Huh? On an East Bay mailer?

See, state election law requires that these mailers put an asterisk next to the names of all people who actually WANTED to be on the mailer, and paid for that dubious honor.

Neither Steve Young nor any of the other Dems mentioned are marked as such.

But Ortiz and Kaplan are marked as paying customers, as are the “Yes on Prop 90,” the state constitutional amendment that opponents say would not only restrict governmental use of eminent domain to take property, but also make any future government regulation (environmental, zoning, copyright, etc.) so difficult that most governments would have to simply stop regulating.

Why is this sleazy (again, on the part of the mailer, not the candidates)? Because AC Transit, Kaplan included, voted to oppose Proposition 90. What’s more is another paying customer was apparently an opponent of Propositions 1A through 1C. Prop 1B would pump tons of money into local transit, including the AC variety.

All of the candidates paying to get onto this mailer, if you can trust the asterisks, are local candidates in nonpartisan contests, including the Oro Loma Sanitary District between San Leandro and Hayward, the San Leandro Unified School Board and Eden Township Hospital District.

I’m sure if you asked the candidates, they’d tell you they didn’t agree with all the positions on the mailer, which is something even the disclaimer in fine print, “Not paid for or authorized by candidates and ballot measures not marked by an *.”

Unfortunately, a lot of voters don’t understand that, and can easily be led to believe that both the Democratic Party and whoever they recognize on the list have endorsed these positions. So if you trust that Jerry Brown would agree with you, you might end up voting against the transportation bond.

But in truth, Jerry Brown didn’t ask to be on the mailer, and there’s no law that requires his permission.

Federal courts ruled in 2001 and 2002 that the First Amendment protects such mailings as free speech, just like, well, this blog, the National Enquirer or various unsavory publications known to originate in the San Fernando Valley.

So if you are pining for some suggestions on how to vote, you’re shooting crap when you bring these things into the voting booth, as they recommend. If you must be led by the nose, I might suggest the editorial suggestions of your local newspaper, or your favorite special interest group.

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2 Responses to “Lies, damn lies and slate mailers”

  1. Robert Stark Says:

    Just ran for Supervisor in Lake County, had two of the misleading mailers used to steal votes from me. I’m glad I Googled “deceptive mailers” I don’t feel so bad no. It’s a shame when opponents can’t run strictly on their merits,it shows their level of insecurity.

  2. Capricious Commuter Says:

    Here’s a great Capitol Weekly story on the subject:

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