Community Commentary: Slate mailers — a recent history

A slate mailer is a political brochure or flier meeting a certain combination of endorsements of both candidates and issues. I am sure you have received many of these colorful one- or two-pagers as we head into elections. What most people don’t know is that there are two kinds of these mailers — one put out by a transparent organization truthfully listing candidates and issues that organization supports and another type that does its best under the law to deceive the voter.
In Encinitas, this election gives us good examples of both.
Today I received a slate mailer that indicated that the Republican Party endorses Kristin Gaspar. The mailer indicates it is an official Republican voter guide and the address when Googled confirms that.
The state also lists this address as an official Republican site. Nice and straight forward — a good way for candidates to save money by sharing expenses.
Prior to this, I received a mailer with Barth’s positions severely distorted and compared to Dalagar and Gaspar’s positions in such a way that the casual reader could not help but feel Barth was not the right candidate. Turning to the election reporting forms (known as the 460) I found one shared expense between Dalager and Gaspar — both paid the “Voter Information Guide” for slate mailer services. This is probably the source of this “comparison” mailer. In 2006, a deceptive mailer by “Voter Information Guide” was sent out with Diane Feinstein’s photo on it, attempting to link the other candidates with her. This was done without Feinstein’s permission and she filed a formal complaint. A mailer of this type will have a disclaimer indicating that the mailer was not prepared by a political party and the appearances on the mailer are paid ads. If you Google the address on the mailer you will probably find numerous other organizations using the same address — all with names like Citizens for Lower Taxes or Good Government Committee. This rabbit’s warren of attorneys, accountants and political consultants use these straw organizations to hide who paid for the ad and give their candidate an “out” if challenged. This is exactly what Gaspar attempted to do at the last candidates forum. It is odd that Dalager would use “Voter Information Guide” again because his ad was on the back of the unauthorized Feinstein picture put out in 2006.
So when you get a slate mailer, be sure and look for the disclaimer and Google the address of the sender. If you still are confused about the origin of a slate mailer, check the official sites of the parties on the California’s Voter site. Better yet, if your city posts the 460 forms, check to see who the candidates are doing business with — Google the addresses. Did they source their campaign materials from your area or out of your area? Or out of state? Did their contributions come from within your city or from out of town?

Herb Patterson is an Encinitas resident.