Monday, May 29, 2006

BEWARE FAKE VOTER GUIDES-- AND THE FAKE CANDIDATES WHO PAY FOR THEM

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I want to tell the mailman to dump all those slate mailers I've been getting in the mail everyday directly into the garbage. He won't though. I bet you get them too, right? I don't want to make a blanket statement and say every single one of those slate mailers is a bought-and-paid for fake that is a for-profit scheme meant to deceive you because maybe one or two aren't. Most are though.

I'm going to talk about California because I live here. But I have a feeling the same is true no matter what state you live in. Do you remember last year when the big pharaceutical corporations were trying to confuse voters into endorsing their anti-consumer Pop 79? They purchased the "endorsement" of a few dozen completely bogus operations disguised as legitimate organizations. Among the cards you probably got in the mail at least some were from civic-sounding organizations like P.O.W.E.R., GeM Communications Group, Citizens for Representative Government, Valley Taxpayers Coalition, Family Faith and Freedom Association, Voter Information Guide, Democratic Voters Choice, Team California, Citizens for Good Government, Non-Partisan Candidate Evaluation Council, CRA Voter Guide, United Democratic Campaign Committee, Continuing the Republican Revolution, Save Prop 13, The Council of Concerned Women Voters, Coalition for Senior Citizens Security, Our Voice Latino Voter Guide, Voter Education and Registration Action, ADF Networking Consultancy, Team California, Your Ballot Guide, Californians for Quality Healthcare, Republican Voter Checklist, COPS Voter Guide, Orange County Firefighters Voter Guide... Some of them even sound legit and familiar; they're not legit and they're supposed to sound familiar.

I could start one called The Yerevan-Glendale Voter Education Alliance to capitalize on the large and influential Armenian-American community in the L.A. area. Maybe I put pictures of popular Mayor Rafi Manoukian on the mailer and maybe Duarte City Councilman George Chapjian and Downey City Councilman Kirk Cartozian. That establishes my bona fides. Then I could go hit up non-Armenians looking for endorsements and votes among Armenian-Americans either for their own candidacies or in support of ballot initiatives. Oh, but do people really do this?

A friend of mine who works in state politics told me that the "pay-to-play" mailers are big business, although he says he thinks it's predominantly a California scam. "Basically," he told me last week, "these slimy firms use fake astroturf groups and put a 'gun to the head' of campaigns and have them bid against each other." Here are a couple of "groups" jonesin' for campaign money in return for endosements on their mailers this year (notice the addresses):

Coalition for Senior Citizen Security
2350 Hidalgo Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90039

Our Voice Latino Voter Guide
2350 Hidalgo Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90039

Parents' Ballot Guide
1954 West Carson Street Suite B
Torrance, California 90501

The Early Voter
1954 W. Carson Street Suite B
Torrance, California 90501

Many of these "organizations" don't exist and the address is just the address for the proprietor of a slate mailer company. Using these tools is one way that well-heeled corporate candidates attempt to buy elections against actual grassroots candidates. Political operators like Rahm Emanuel and Tom DeLay give their puppet candidates money for these kinds of slate mailers in order to deceive voters into thinking that civil and grassroots organizations support them. Up in the San Joaquin Valley, for example, the Emanuel shill, Steve Filson, has bought every bogus mailer he could find in order to combat the actual grassroots support that his opponent Jerry McNerney has built in the district over the last several years. He's even on one that is urging a NO vote of Prop 82 (the pre-school initiative)! And, predictably, Steve Westly is using the same technique.

9 Comments:

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Howie, in general this is a great post. But up here in the Bay Area we have United Democratic Campaigns that are 1000% legit. The UDCs are essentially the umbrella groups that coordinate the electoral activities of the Democratic clubs and the campaign activity of the Democrats running for office. I suspect, although I don't know for sure, that the "United Democratic Campaigns Committee" is the local equivalent for the LA area.

 
At 10:06 AM, Anonymous Frank D. Russo said...

Great post on this big problem--phony slate pieces--paid for with campaign contributions. Most of them deceptive and confusing to voters--and making it more difficult for legitimate slates to be noticed.

There is one voter guide that I featured on my site. It is the Speak Out California Voter Guide that also lets you know where the candidates get their money from.

I described it at: http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/2006/05/one-stop_guide.html

 
At 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beware the fake "Official Non-Partisan Voter Guide of California"! Your name and address are for sale on CD by the Voter Registration office, and then it's open season on the facts. When I received my "Official Non-Partisan Voter Guide of California", prepared especially for me on 11th Street in Sacramento, with a tear-off poll card, and bearing a seal looking for all the world like the official Seal of the State of California, I quickly scanned to see who/what were being recommended. (I disagree with every single recommendation.) I was shocked to find out that the only requirement by the Fair Political Practices Commission, besides a footnote stating the name of the candidate who paid for his/her ad, is the inclusion of a small-print notice to voters bearing the name of the organization/individual who prepares the slate mailer. In this case, the statement reads like absurdist satire, (and would be funny if it weren't disinformation): "This document was prepared by the Official Non-Partisan Voter Guide of California, not an official political party organization..." The Fair Political Practices Commission needs to enforce something that requires truth in advertising!

 
At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is silly. All a slate mailer does is help candidates get a message out in a less expensive manner by combining resources with other candidates. They are no more or less misleading that other political mail. In fact, slates are a good thing for the system.

 
At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Phoebe said...

No this isn't silly "Anonymous" (coward). We've gotten mailers that are full of lies, e.g. stating they do not endorse any particular candidate or propositions, then include their three favorite candidate and which props people should vote for and against! Frankly, I just think they're idiots, I saw through it the first time I got one, and I threw it in the garbage.

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger bratprince said...

Matt wrote: "But up here in the Bay Area we have United Democratic Campaigns that are 1000% legit."

That's absolutely true. But live in San Francisco, and just today I received a totally phony voter information guide. The first I've ever received, if memory serves.

The mailing uses a photo of Senator Dianne Feinstein and a No on 85 (proposed Parental Notification Law) message in an attempt to mislead the reader into thinking that it's a legitimate Democratic mailing. Inside, the positions given are almost all the exact opposite of those taken by most Democratic groups. And imagine my shock at discovering that most of these positions had been bought and paid for (the No on 85 was one of only 2 unpaid recommendations).

It's actually pretty clever in a way: Throw in the "right" positions on a couple of high-visibility races and ballot measures as ringers, in the hope of misleading busy or distracted voters into voting against clean money elections, against increased tobacco taxes to fund medical research and care, against taxing oil production to fund alternative energy development, . . . you get the idea.

We in the Bay Area live in a bubble, and we know (and love) it. But when the other side is as desperate, and dishonest, as Republicans and their corporate masters in this campaign season, you can't be too careful.

 
At 8:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this blog. I found it by googling "1954 W Carson Street" (which is the address given at the voter guide that was mailed to me yesterday). This voter guide is called "California Voter Guide," and it evidently uses the identical address as "Parents' Ballot Guide" that you mentioned.

You are right!

These mailers are fake advertisements in a "pay-to-pay" scam.

It is up to us to read the propositions ourselves or to at least consider the endorsements of our more informed local County Central Committee's.

 
At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you left Peter Kesterson off your Leadership For California pamphlet I received in the mail and you are endorsing his opponet Mattie Fein. She's a carpetbagger. I guess you didn't know that. She's hold up in some apt. in Venice. Why Venice. Apparently you know nothing about Pete Kesterson otherwise you would be endorsing him. She is from Florida and moved her recently to run. Pete has been here in the South Bay for over seven years and knows Jame Harmon and her shinanigans better than Mattie. Harmon will slaughter Fein. You fools

 
At 3:12 PM, Blogger David Terpening said...

I got the mailer, looked up Neel Kashkari and didn't like what I read about him. Totally pisses me off that many folks will just take the flyer and vote for whomever is on the flyer! Please people, DO YOUR RESEARCH!

 

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