Friday, November 4, 2011

Unethical Political Mailers

 Dear Montebello Residents,

Election Day is almost here and for weeks now our mailboxes have been stuffed with political mailers.  In all the confusion, how can you tell the difference between a "good" mailer and a "bad" one?

The City of Sunnyvale California created an excellent Campaign Ethics Guide to help voters evaluate the merits of political mailers.

Among the suggestions they give are:

Read the Fine Print. Campaign laws in California require that every political mailing and advertisement contain information on who is paying for it. Typically, this information is in very small type in an inconspicuous
location. But this is very important information to know in evaluating what is said in the campaign piece.

Most candidates create a committee name to accept contributions. Often, these committees have names like “Committee to elect …” or “Friends of …” The committee or candidate’s name and street address must appear on the outside of the campaign mailer. In Sunnyvale, voters can contact the City Clerk’s Office to clarify who is behind a committee and whether it is controlled by the candidate or another group.

Many of the brochures that “endorse” a variety of candidates for different offices are actually paid advertising by the candidates themselves. The group that appears to be mailing the piece usually has a vague name that references family values, education, the environment or even a political party. There is nothing wrong with candidates using some of their campaign funds to be part of a co-op mailing with other candidates, but it is unethical to mislead voters into thinking these are independent endorsements.

Any individual or organization can send a political mailer or place an advertisement about a candidate, without the candidate’s knowledge or approval. This type of political marketing is called an “independent expenditure” and it is covered under the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. What’s more, money spent by independent groups on behalf of candidates is not reported on Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) campaign spending forms. Unfortunately, independent expenditures have sometimes been used for nasty hit pieces on a candidate’s opponent. Check the source!

In regards to the race for Montebello City Treasurer, let me reassure my supporters:

I am the ONLY candidate for treasurer "officially" endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party (LACDP).  You can view this endorsement at the LACDP website here.

I would like to add that my political opponent, Mr. Sheraly Khwaja,  is a registered REPUBLICAN, not a Democrat.

With these facts and the Sunnyvale guidelines in mind, I present to you a mailer that arrived in Montebello mailboxes this morning:

Using the guidelines from the Sunnyvale publication, please keep in mind that just because a candidate's name appears in a political mailer, that doesn't mean the candidate was aware of or approved of their inclusion in the mailer.  It is possible the candidates mentioned in this piece were unaware that such a mailer was being sent out.

The "fine print" on this mailer reveals it was paid for by a group called "Democratic Voters Choice."  At this time I have no idea what person(s), organizations or special interest groups are behind the name "Democratic Voters Choice" but I intend to do my best to find out.

This deceptive mailer is a prime example of the type of political shenanigans I plan to fight against if elected to the position of Montebello City Treasurer.  Montebello doesn't need this type of juvenile behavior from any group or anyone trying to influence our residents to vote for "their" candidate.  It's time the individuals behind such unethical behavior grew up.

Respectfully yours,

Yvonne Watson

Please don't forget to vote next Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

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