ENCINITAS — Several mailers from a group called We Love Encinitas arrived in local mailboxes throughout October.
It was not then apparent what group or individual was behind the mailers, but Paul Gaspar, who has now been confirmed to be the founder of the group, says otherwise.
According to Gaspar, a local businessman and Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar’s husband, said he had sent out a press release to the daily newspapers in mid-October introducing the group.
A U-T San Diego article from Oct. 23 looking at political groups could not find the identity of the group.
Marco Gonzalez, a lawyer at Coast Law Group, said he and other lawyers found out that Gaspar had formed the group only a few days ago by checking various databases. Gonzalez said he and active members in the community were unaware of any press releases issued by We Love Encinitas.
“I know a lot of people active in the community and didn’t hear anything about it being him,” Gonzalez said.
Although not overtly political, the mailers suggested support for the incumbents, outgoing Mayor Jerome Stocks and Councilman Mark Muir, leading up to the Council election by using recent survey data conducted by True North Research.
Below favorability ratings in categories like quality of life and law enforcement, the first mailer contained the message: “Thank you to our City Council for making our city such a wonderful place to live, work and play. Keep up the good work.”
A second mailer from the group also included the favorability ratings as well as pictures and quotes from current councilmembers, excluding Councilwoman Teresa Barth.
In an email exchange, Gaspar said the North County Times and U-T San Diego, prior to their merging, reviewed the group’s ads and deemed them nonpolitical. A representative from the newspaper could not be reached for comment by press time.
In response to a question about whether the mailer was intended to support the incumbents, Gaspar said: “The intention of WLE is to spread positive news about Encinitas. Our city staff, public safety officials, City Council and citizenry are a big part of our city’s success.”
In the press release sent Tuesday to the The Coast News, reportedly dated Oct. 17 identifying Gaspar as the founding member, it states the group is a nonpolitical organization, “committed to a positive voice for informing the Encinitas community through: community outreach, multimedia, direct mail, social media and the sale of promotional items.”
Authorities from the California Secretary of State’s office Tuesday confirmed Gaspar was the CEO and agent of process of We Love Encinitas Community Advocates.
The mailers sent out did not contain any contact information, except for a return address listed as a mailing center. The website was established as a proxy, allowing the person who registered it to remain anonymous.
An inquiry from The Coast News in October to the California Secretary of State’s office and California State Attorney did not show paperwork had been filed for a 501 (c) 3 called We Love Encinitas. Also, the group did not appear on guidestar.org or other charity registries.
In October, the California Fair Political Practices Commission said the first mailer did not violate rules for a nonprofit, because it didn’t specifically identify candidates.
But Gonzalez believes the second mailer “walks the line, if not steps over it,” due to pictures and quotes from councilmembers also displayed next to the survey results.
“You have to ask why a nonprofit is sending out borderline political information,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez would like to see the city have a conversation and clarify the rules for slate mailers.