On Guard, Ocean Beach Voters! Tricksters Abound – Beware of Fake Mailers

by on June 2, 2018 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Colleen Cochran

OB voters, be on the watch for fake campaign materials in your mailboxes. In particular, be wary of the cardstock flyers that portray checklists of recommended candidates. They’re called slate mailers, and they’re designed to deceive you.

Slate mailers look like official candidate endorsements. They appear to be sent by political parties or organizations that support a particular ideological point of view. For instance, they’re labeled as guides for Democrat or Republican voters or for those who support Latinos, teachers, firefighters, the military, the environment, etc.

Slate mailers are actually more akin to the circulars that contain multiple restaurant ads than they are to official candidate literature. Restaurant advertisers will generally feature any eatery willing to pay them money, as will many of the sponsors of political slate mailers.

Some sponsors possess a motivation more nefarious than merely making money. It’s to deceive people into voting for candidates that don’t represent their interests.

The latest slate mailer to hit OB has a header that reads “The Team for Democratic Voters.” A Democrat who doesn’t have much time to research candidates thinks it’s mighty handy that an organization compiled this list. It seems the perfect tool to take along to the voting booth. This particular mailer actually instructs recipients to do so.

It’s a trick. “The Team’s” voter guide lists real Democrats, but also five Republican candidates – Dumanis, Dronenburg, Stephan, Gore, and Zaps [sic].

There are clues that this mailer does not come from a bona fide organization. The fact that “Zapf” is misspelled “Zaps” is one. The shoddy backwards American flag graphic and the fact that the flags are missing some of their stripes is another.

I’m quite certain the recipient of the depicted mailer, Bryan Pease, is aware that the listed recommended City Council candidate is not a Democrat. Bryan Pease is an actual Democratic City Council candidate.

The most obvious clue that this campaign literature did not originate from an official source is the little box that reads:

Notice to voters: This document was prepared by Democratic Voters Choice, not an official political party organization. Appearance in this mailer does not necessarily imply endorsement of others appearing in this mailer, nor does it imply endorsement of, or opposition to, any issues set forth in this mailer. Appearance is paid for and authorized by each candidate and ballot measure which is designated by an *.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) requires this disclaimer. It determined this rinky-dink notification sufficiently warns voters that they are not in receipt of official candidate materials.

That disclaimer box is no dead giveaway. It’s only required to be printed on one side of the mailer, and the font only has to be 8-point. Anyway, who reads those things? Hopefully, OB voters will.

Yes, the organizations that send out this flimflam are legally sanctioned to operate. They do, however, have to adhere to some FPPC stipulations. They must:

  • Register as a slate mailer organization if they receive more than $500 in a calendar year.
  • Report the payments they receive, as well as actual production and mailing costs.
  • Report the parties who paid to be in the slate mailers, as well as the amounts paid.

Also, if a candidate listed on a slate is different than the political party that is being represented, the candidate’s party designation must appear immediately below his or her name. There is no such stipulation, however, when a candidate is running for a nonpartisan office, which is why the five Republican candidates listed on the depicted mailer are not designated as such.

All this information is available to the public. The FPPC doesn’t make it easy to find, however. It took me dozens of Google searches to track it down. Let me make it easier for you – go here .

By clicking on the link, you can see if the company listed on your campaign literature was produced by a slate mailer organization. The mailer depicted here came from an outfit called Democratic Voters Choice, and it is indeed registered on the Cal-Access website. By clicking the company name, check marking the “electronic filings” circle, then looking at sections designated Form 401 filings, you can see payments made to a slate mailer company and who paid them.

Do these slate mailer organizations make a lot of money? You betcha. I took a gander at Democratic Voters Choice’s Statement 401 filing for the period marked April through June of 2017. It states that on May 2, 2017, John Chiang (candidate for CA governor) paid $41,000 to appear on the company’s slate mailers. From January through June of 2017, Democratic Voters Choice received over $221,000 in payments.

You may be asking why, in the case of the above-depicted mailer, true Democrats paid to be listed on a mailer that also featured Republicans. It’s because these candidates realize a big part of winning the game is getting their names out there. Plus, it’s damage control. They need to offset the exposure their opponents who appear in slate mailers are getting.

I don’t think these FPPC stipulations adequately protect voters. Be smarter than the slate mailer organizations, OB voters! Ignore their mailers and take the time to review the actual candidates’ websites to ensure that your vote is truly your voice.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Doug Blackwood June 2, 2018 at 6:46 pm

Good alert for all of us, it momentarily fooled me!

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Lori Saldana June 4, 2018 at 10:14 am

I’d like to take this opportunity to ask for support of our grassroots, progressive campaign for County Supervisor in Dist. 4

I represented Ocean Beach in the State Assembly for 6 years. I want OB Rag readers know: our campaign has received NO MONEY from any corporations. We have raised about $40,000 and all contributions are from individuals- no corporate or PAC money, or money transferred from other candidates, is being used. ?

We have printed exactly ONE piece of literature that we have personally handed out to people, door to door and at community events. You may have received one at your home or from volunteers.

We have not mailed anything to any voters- only given them this piece of information at their doors or in personal meetings.

I would be the first Latino/a in County history to serve on the Board of Supervisors, and only the 2nd Democratic woman. Those are positive reasons to support our efforts in a region that is majority Democratic, female, and increasingly people of color.

?To the readers: If you know me personally, and believe not only in me, but in our campaign’s message of diversity, inclusivity and social justice: please tell others to vote for me Tuesday.

It will mean a lot to the outcome of this very close election.

Thank you-

Lori Saldaña

Reply

Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie June 4, 2018 at 10:22 am

Both Bryan and Lori have had their mailer issues as well; see here for more examples of the dangers of slate mailers https://sandiegofreepress.org/2018/05/slate-mailers-and-other-weapons-of-mass-deception/

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Erin Friday June 5, 2018 at 6:21 am

That is truly deceptive. I hope that when people vote that they do their own homework and are not fooled by slimy marketeers. Shameful.

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