Democrats claim mailer misleading
Josh Singer, The Union Staff Writer
SACRAMENTO – Leading California Democrats are angry about a slate mailer published by one of their own consultants, describing the guide as an attempt to deceive voters.
In Nevada County, local Democrats also are upset, saying the same mailer gives a false impression of a party endorsement for a local judicial candidate, Grass Valley lawyer Ray Shine. He is the only local candidate listed on the mailers among state office-seekers and statewide ballot measures.
Asterisks next to the names of candidates and propositions on the mailers denote someone had paid to be included on the list.
At the state level, the flap surrounds Proposition 87, an initiative seeking to fund alternative fuel research by taxing in-state oil production. State Democrats and proponents of the measure this week publicly distanced the party from the flier, which was mailed to 4.2 million households in California.
The so-called Voter Information Guide for Democrats endorses Democratic candidates running for statewide offices. It also suggests that people vote against the oil tax measure and an initiative that would boost taxes on cigarettes to fund health programs. Both initiatives are supported by the California Democratic Party.
“We don’t want people to be fooled by the oil companies’ campaign … of confusion and deception,” said party spokesman Roger Salazar.
Shine judges mailers fair
The Voter Information Guide is published by Democratic political consultant Larry Levine of Sherman Oaks. He is the father of Democratic state Assemblyman Lloyd Levine.
Larry Levine defended the flier as an independent publication. A small box on the mailer’s front page states in fine print that it was not prepared by an official party organization.
“There is a presumption (that) voters are not smart enough to raise their eyes and see who sent them this,” said Levine.
Shine spent $1,700 to have his name in the mailers sent by Voter Information Guide, according to financial statements filed with the county Elections Office.
“They are a very economical way of getting your message to voters,” Shine said. “I don’t think there’s anything misleading about this at all.”
The state Fair Political Practices Commission said the fliers are legal. But David Cohen, a Nevada City resident and former president of the Placer County Bar Association, said Shine’s participation in the mailer raises the question of whether he violated strict standards applied specifically to judges and judge candidates.
“It’s improper for a judge to do this because it creates an aura of partisan politics in a nonpartisan race,” Cohen said.
Mailer company paid by oil companies
Levine said his decision to oppose the two propositions came before he solicited money from the opposition campaigns.
He collected $300,000 from oil companies campaigning against Proposition 87 and $75,000 from tobacco companies opposing the cigarette tax, Proposition 86, according to campaign finance records filed with the Secretary of State’s office.
Both sides in the campaign over Proposition 87 have raised a record $149 million.
Oil companies that would be subject to the tax have largely funded the opposition, contributing about $91 million. Supporting the measure, Hollywood producer Steven Bing contributed $50 million and the state Democratic Party gave $43,000.
The state party also produced mailers urging voters to support both propositions 86 and 87.
To contact Staff Writer Josh Singer, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4234.
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