Slate Mailers: Deception at a Price

Slate Mailers are cheap and deceptive and (some) candidates love them. Not me.


(Editor's note: Marga Lacabe runs the Chris Crow campaign and has made other endorsements through blog postings on Patch. Any candidate, or any reader, who wants to blog on Patch is encouraged to do so and get equal space. Follow this link to start your own blog, whether as a series or as a single posting.)

If you are a frequent voter, chances are that you will get a lot of political mail this month.  Much will come from propositions, less from candidates.  But you will also get at least one slate mailer, probably more.  These mailers come with titles that suggest they are sponsored by specific organizations. “Firefighters recommend,” “The Nurses guide”, “Democratic guide”, etc. etc.  In reality, they are commercial ventures owned by private companies that sell space on their slates to political candidates.  Usually candidates for the top offices are included for free, both because the candidates wouldn’t pay to be on the slates and because the other candidates want to be associated with them.  But pretty much anyone running for local office will have to pay – how much will depend on the office (the higher the office, the greater the expense) and the number of voters who will receive the slate mailer.  In addition to paid candidates, the slate mailers include recommendations for positions to be taken on particular propositions.  These are usually paid as well.

While slate mailers can seem partisan – by using the name of a political party or a particular cause or by the choice of presidential/governor candidate they feature -, in reality they will take anyone who pays. The “Election Digest” slate mailer, for example, usually features Democratic top-ticket candidates, but it drew attention in Southern California this June when it included both President Obama and a candidate for judge who is a well-known “birther” and had been working to disqualify Obama from appearing on the state ballots.   He won.

In San Leandro, two City Council candidates have so far disclosed that they have paid for placement on a slate mailer.

Jim Prola paid $700 to be included in the “Election Digest” discussed above and $650 to be on “Your Voter Guide“.

“Your Voter Guide” is also based in Southern California and it’s run by political consultant  Jill Barad. It also targets Democrats.

Benny Lee, meanwhile, took the opposite approach and paid $500 to the be included in the “Budget Watchdogs Newsletter” slate mailer and $150 to be in the “California Voter Guide”, both targeted to Republicans.  Given that Lee told the San Leandro Times that he did not support pension reform, it’s somewhat ironic that he would chose to be on the mailer of a (fake) organization that purports to fight “wasteful and abusive fiscal practices of government agencies, officials and staff”. 

Of course, the candidates may still appear on other slate mailers that they had not paid for by the end of September. 

Do slate mailers work? 

Candidates use them because they are cheaper than sending their own mailers (a mailer sent just to the most frequent voters in San Leandro will cost about $9,000) and because they fear that if they don’t put their names on them, their opponents might.   Experts believe that mailers do work.  If nothing else, it helps build name recognition for the candidate and associates him with some cause or top-tier candidate voters support.

In my experience, however, slate mailers don't seem to make that much of a difference.  It might help with name awareness, but not to a significant extent.

Should Candidates Pay to be on Slate?

In general I would say the answer is “no”.  It’s definitely unethical for a candidate to pay to be on a slate that communicates a message different from her own or that attempts to deceive voters as to who is supporting her.  It's less of an issue to pay to be on a slate that only includes certain candidates with common characteristics, such as "candidates endorsed by the Democratic Party".

Andother problem is that slate mailers associate a candidate with others who may have drastically different ideas that his own.  That association may end up being harmful.  There is also something unsavory about being on a slate that advocates positions on propositions that go against your own.

As you can see on the graphic, I actually did appear on a commercial slate mailer on the last election, as part of a group of people running together for 10 available seats.  My group did not have to pay for placement (thus the lack of an asterix) and this particular mailer (the Election Digest discussed above) is not particularly deceitful, but I'm still less than happy to have appeared on it - and I'm pretty sure it made little difference at the polls.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tom Abate (Editor) October 18, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Hi Ed. Let me urge you to write a blog on Patch. You can repurpose material on the web site and it will reach other people. Here's the link if you decide to go for it: http://sanleandro.patch.com/blog/apply
Marga Lacabe October 18, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Actually, Ed, why not give us your opinion about why Ursula should be re-elected. What do /you/ think she has done for San Leandro that has made a difference? Ursula lists a bunch of things that have happened in San Leandro in the last four years - several /in spite of/, rather than /because of/ the City Council. But which one has she actively worked on and how?
Ed Hernandez October 19, 2012 at 04:36 PM
@Tom - Thanks for the encouragement, will do. @Marga, I believe Ursula is a strong advocate for the city of San Leandro as she was able to secure $2m for the fiber loop, brought on five additional police officers through the COPS grant, and made the walk between the 9th grade campus and high school safer w/conceptualizing the six way light. There is one more reason (and no, not because she appointed me to the Planning Commission, full disclosure)...but you might have to read my blog in the near future.
Tom Abate (Editor) October 19, 2012 at 05:34 PM
All right! Another blogger recruited. Slight change of gears: On the topic of mailers, there is a story out about a Pete Stark mailer. It's not exactly San Leandro but he was our guy for so many years and his race against Swalwell has been watched nationwide. Here's the latest: http://sanleandro.patch.com/articles/pete-stark-attacks-castro-valley-realtor
Marga Lacabe October 19, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Ed, Ursula had absolutely nothing to do with the grants the city obtained for the fiber loop or the five cops. These are things that took place while she was in the City Council, but her only involvement was hearing about them. Did Ursula actually conceptualize the six-way light? I don't know, she may very well have, but given that she claims credit for two things she clearly had no involvement in, it makes me wonder if that's the case with the traffic light as well. Do you know for a fact that she was involved (and if so, how do you know?) or are you parroting her website?
Marga Lacabe October 19, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I made a comment on that article, but let me repeat here: rather than just repeat political accusations and rumors, how about letting your readers know if there is any fire under that smoke? Post a scan of the mailer Stark sent.
Tom Abate (Editor) October 19, 2012 at 05:52 PM
If I had I it I would have posted it; if and when I get it, I will.
Ed Hernandez October 19, 2012 at 07:36 PM
@Marga - Thanks for the response, I spoke w/Ursula today a/b her accomplishments given your request. Have a great weekend.
Marga Lacabe October 19, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Ed, was she able to mention any actual accomplishments? By which I mean, anything that /she/ managed to get done, that wouldn't have happened if she hadn't been on the council? Maybe that traffic light is one accomplishments, but I wonder if there are any others (other than getting the city to buy top-of-the-line i-pads for Council Members and department heads). I do admire your loyalty, however :-)
anthony October 19, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Marga... who did swing all that USEDA loop money to SL ? Everybody went with the press release but no real information on how the grant "found" SL.
Carlos J October 20, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Ed, while the city was cutting back on its work force, on city services. reducing or eliminating non essential services, Ms. Reed (along with other council members) voted to give $100 thousand dollars (gifts) to each of 3 former city employees $300.000.00 for what???? Ms. Reed also voted to give $30.000.00 Tax Break to Kaiser Hospital? at a time when the library hours where being reduced, and Just a few weeks ago Ms.Reed a Democrat twice in a same night voted for a Republican ( Joyce's city council space) simply because of he was a former Police Officer ( of course one needs to stay in the good graces of the POA). Do you think this is a Council person that has the interest of the city first ??? or are the decisions made made in the interest of future political capital?----oh yea the traffic signal at 136th ...yea it took over 7 yrs to have installed.
Fred Eiger October 20, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Hey Carlos J, you may not know this, probably because you like to hide behind your screen name and spew vile, but the City Council is a non-partisan position. If the only thing you have against Dlugosh is that he's a Republican, which I doubt he is, then you have some serious issues.
Carlos J October 20, 2012 at 03:32 PM
HEY FRED for your info I'm referring to Ms. Reed vote for Charles Kane, "After thanking the applicants, the City Council proceeded to the first round vote: Applicant Gregory Reed Souza Cutter Prola Cassidy Dana Chohlis Tom Dlugosh X X X John Faria X Charles Kane X X With no applicant receiving four votes, Prola offered to change his vote from Faria to Dlugosh. However, Cassidy said that the Council should go with the process that had already been agreed upon and go to a second round of voting. For the second round, Chohlis was eliminated because she didn't receive any votes in the first round. The results of the second round of voting: Applicant Gregory Reed Souza Cutter Prola Cassidy Tom Dlugosh X X X X John Faria Charles Kane X X from SLBYTES, and if you are interested in speaking to me, i'll gladly buy you a cup of coffee at the best Coffee house in San Leandro.... of course I'm speaking about Zocalo's Coffee House, I'll save you a seat.
Fred Eiger October 20, 2012 at 03:49 PM
So you missed my point entirely; the position is Non-Partisan. I guess there's too much caffeine in your double latte.
Carlos J October 20, 2012 at 04:16 PM
A true Democrat shouldn't never cross party lines! are you jealous of my latte??? its a triple Latte today freddy, wanted to have a big one while i wait for you to join us...
Fred Eiger October 20, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Put a true Non-Partisan is intelligent enough to know the meaning of Non-Partisan. Hmmm go to Zocalo or Ryan's??? I'd rather head out on over to Ryan's and have a triple single malt.
Leah Hall October 20, 2012 at 04:22 PM
So much tension in this chat room this morning. Too bad we don't have a Downtown San Leandro YMCA, where the beverage of choice for all members (once you get past the front desk) is WATER for rehydration and wellness. :)
Fred Eiger October 20, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Hey there Leah, when are you coming on down to Guido's???? Quit hanging with those sissy mary's down at Zocalo and be with the MEN of San Leandro.
Leah Hall October 20, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Barf. My best friends and I agree, if they had a pill to make us gay, we'd be tempted to take the bottle. ;-) http://sanleandro.patch.com/articles/tea-party-leader-women-too-mean-hateful-to-vote#photo-11748805
Fred Eiger October 20, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Don't be that way Leah. Why, you can bring Marga and you two mares can belly up to the bar down a couple pints, throw darts and Hell, we will even let you read our Longfellow so you know we're sophisticated here.
Marga Lacabe October 20, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Anthony, I didn't know so I asked the City Manager. Basically, this is something that came about and happened through the city's lobbyst (yay! they were worth what we pay them!), with help from Stark's office.
Marga Lacabe October 20, 2012 at 07:05 PM
And Fred, Carlos J is not anonymous. He is Carlos. But there is no "Fred Eiger", so you are the one who is hiding behind a fake screen name.
Fred Eiger October 20, 2012 at 07:24 PM
My neighbors on Vining Dr. have had Hermy Almonte signs pulled out and thrown on the street. If Prola's jackass supporters are so damn threatened by Hermy, I can't wait until Prola is tossed out in a couple weeks.
Fred Eiger October 20, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Carlos what???
Marga Lacabe October 20, 2012 at 08:08 PM
"J", Fred. How about I give you the rest of the letters if you first come clean as to who you are?
Fred Eiger October 20, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Marga, do you remember the Facebook account "San Leandro Rumors"??? Well, I'm the Rumor in San Leandro Rumors.
Marga Lacabe October 20, 2012 at 08:41 PM
You were much funnier back then.
Fred Eiger October 20, 2012 at 08:44 PM
I stil am funny Marga. I'm just more honest as to my true self here. Maybe you should reassess your support of Jim Prola, not that Hermy is the victim of racist attacks.
Marga Lacabe October 24, 2012 at 10:07 PM
I just got the "Your Ballot Buide" slate mailer. It lists Ursula Reed and Benny Lee as having paid to be on the mailer - and yet neither candidate disclosed it on their last campaign finance disclosure report. Now, Jim Prola doesn't have an asterisk next to his name - which would indicate that the had not paid to be on this mailer - but he has disclosed paying for it. At the stop of the slate mailer is "No on L". The opposition to L comes from Tom Silva, of the California Apartments Association. Silva, coincidentally, also gave money to Reed, Lee and Prola. And while we know that *someone* paid to include Reed and Lee's names on the mailer, we don't know if it was them or if it was Silva. This all just goes to my point that slate mailers are deceitful - but also a way to get away from disclosing financial contributions to candidates.
Justin H. October 25, 2012 at 03:06 AM
www.Hutchisonforslcc.org and yes Tom I will be applying to blog after this election. It seems like it would be alot of fun. Tom, I have a campaign video getting ready to release on Friday or Saturday. I would love if you could feature it on the Patch:-) This election has taught me alot about the city I have lived in for 34 years, I am eager to spread the word.


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