YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Last-Minute Mailers: Covert Campaigning?

The motives of out-of-town contributors who paid for 'hit' fliers that were sent to Dana Point and Mission Viejo residents are questioned.

October 30, 2002|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Terry Juhl of Dana Point wasn't happy when he thumbed through his mail over the weekend and found a political brochure that slammed two councilmen while urging votes for three opponents.

The mailer was from the Dana Point Voters League, which filed its first campaign report late last week. Two out-of-town donors with no obvious ties to Dana Point gave the group $9,000. Its address is a private postal box.

"This is a stealth campaign," fumed Juhl, a designer, who said he has no council favorites.

Similar mailbox appeals are popping up across Orange County, hoping to sway voters in the crucial final days before Tuesday's election.

In Mission Viejo, a group called Friends of Mission Viejo collected $19,300, mostly from five companies outside Mission Viejo, to back an incumbent and two challengers.

Last-minute "hit mailers" from third parties are as old as politics. But a dearth of competitive legislative and congressional races may have contributed to more local activity this year, said attorney Bill Mitchell, former head of the county chapter of Common Cause, a government watchdog group.

"Voters need to be very suspicious of groups doing this [mail] at the last minute," he said. "If they're not violating the law, then they're undermining it. Voters need to ask: Why do these people want to hide?"

The Dana Point Voters League sent two four-color brochures critical of incumbents Harold Kaufman and Wayne Rayfield. Its campaign form, filed Oct. 24, reported $5,000 from Lenawee Trust of Irvine and $4,000 from Gallo Corp. of Laguna Beach.

A call to Gallo Corp., a building contractor, wasn't returned. Lenawee Trust wasn't listed in local, state or federal databases.

The Dana Point group supports candidates Jim Lacy, Greg Powers and Russ Chilton. They are among 10 candidates, including two incumbents, seeking three seats.

Friends of Mission Viejo, meanwhile, filed its first reports Friday. The largest donations, at $5,000 each, came from Astrum Utility Services and For the Game, both listed at the same address in Solana Beach.

Astrum organizes municipal utilities; For the Game develops and operates recreational facilities.

Calls to Jeff Scott with For the Game and Len Viejo of Astrum weren't returned.

Other sizable contributions were received from Madison Materials and Ware Disposal in Newport Beach, both owned by Judy Ware, and Southwest Inspection and Testing in Santa Fe Springs, which tests construction materials. Former state senator John Lewis of Orange gave $2,000 worth of political consulting.

The Mission Viejo mailers back Councilman John Paul Ledesma and candidates Patricia Kelly and Lance Maclean. Seven other candidates, including two incumbents, are vying for three seats in Tuesday's election.

Los Angeles Times Articles