By David King
As of this writing, there is a week to go to election day on November 8. The negative campaign tactics are inundating the mailboxes in an attempt to sway voters for whom not to vote. Clearly, the public disapproves of this type of campaigning especially if it contains misinformation, distorted hyperbole, or worse, undeniably untrue. These win-at-all-cost campaigns are not helpful to the process and often not authorized by the candidate. But unlike ordinary advertising, truth in advertising laws do not apply to political ads. Voters must do their own research, making voting unnecessarily unpleasant. Here are a few truth benders in local candidate ads that you may have already received.
In Clayton, Claytonwatch, is an unregistered quasi-PAC of citizens disgruntled with the current political makeup of Clayton’s City Council. They recently circulated a flyer targeting two candidates running for city council, Bridget Billeter and Ed Miller. The hit piece stirred heated conversations over social media platforms such as Facebook and NextDoor.
As for candidate Billeter, a California Deputy Attorney General, the flyer accuses her of abusing her power of office by using office time and resources (i.e., email), and publicly identifying herself in her position on personal issues. This claim goes back to her filing complaints several years ago at Clayton Valley Charter’s CEO David Linzey of misusing funds. CVCHS retaliated by filing a complaint with the DOJ. The complaint asked for a reprimand and public apology and for her to cease and desist said activity, of which both sides can agree, that at least the latter did happen.
On Billeter’s Facebook page, she offers an ad hominem denial, which attacks the accuser rather than the claim itself. Billeter categorically denies the accusations and claims her challenges to the school were valid as CEO David Linzey was eventually ousted over misuse of funds and other violations. Unfortunately, that was not the issue of this flyer’s attack.
Ed Miller, a Planning Commissioner, also denies all accusations made against him and on his Facebook page offers a video clip of the Planning meeting that disarms one of the claims outright.
As per the claim that Miller wants to outsource the Police, Miller claims that that notion was born from poor editing of his interview with the Pioneer. His intent was that in looking for ways to curb expenses, it may be feasible to share certain administrative costs with the departments of other cities.
In another claim the flyer states that Miller voted in favor of an extension for the developer of the Olivia Project. This is true. HOwver, Miller says his vote was given out of a sense of fairness to the developer since the project was stalled due to a failed litigation brought against the project. Technically, the flyer is accurate in its claim, as the opportunity was there to ruthlessly shut it down or stall it.
Both candidates, Jeff Wan and Kim Trupiano supported by Claytonwatch disapproved of the flyers and claimed no affiliation with Claytonwatch.
In the Contra Costa County Supervisor District 4 race, campaigners are also resorting to negative ads. Ken Carlson’s campaigners have produced several negative political ads attacking his opponent, Debora Allen. In several hit pieces, she is labeled as a Republican since 1998. It is a dubious claim for a couple of reasons.
First, it is not true. Allen has been a registered NPP (No Party Preference) since 2019. But the real headscratcher on this cheap campaign tactic is, Ken was a registered Republican for 30 years up until 2014. Also, some of his most touted endorsers including Mark DeSaulnier and Tim Grayson were once registered Republicans.
The claim that Allen is supported by an alt-right extremist group has no basis in fact, at least not in any substantial financial support. Nor does the claim on her stance on abortion. Allen has been clear in public forums, she is Pro-Choice.
These pieces state “not authorized by a candidate or a comittee controlled by the candidate.” Despite these continuous misinformation campaigns, attempts were made to redirect the attention on these tactics by admonishing Allen for her negative campaign ads. We found no such ads from Allen or her PAC.
There is one potential exception. Her website shesnopuppet.com implies Carlson may be beholden to special interest.
Allen says she has a reputation for tough negotiations with labor unions. Her site identifies the funding sources behind Carlson and his PAC opposing her – with a whopping $230,000 from labor unions.
Until truth in advertising laws apply to political ads, voters must do their own research and try not to reward such campaigning at the ballot box.
This article was updated from it’s original version. Original article indicated that hit pieces cited on Allen were from Carlson’s campaign when they were not authorized by Carlson or his committees, but from Independent Expenditures campaigning on his behalf.