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Black Politicians Say Mailer Distorts Support

November 05, 2005|Noam N. Levey | Times Staff Writer

A drug industry-supported campaign, which has been criticized for giving money to people who endorsed its ballot measure, is now under fire for misrepresenting the positions of black politicians.

A mailer paid for by the campaign and headlined "The Black Woman's Guide to California Politics" urges voters to support Proposition 78. The measure would allow drug companies to voluntarily cap prices and avert mandatory caps.

But the pamphlet prominently features photos of many black state and federal legislators who oppose Proposition 78. Their photos appear next to calls to vote for the measure.

"It's almost as if there was a deliberate attempt to confuse voters," said Assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles Democrat who was featured in the mailer but opposes Proposition 78. "They are being very, very naughty. And they deserve to be spanked by voters."

Proposition 78 campaign spokeswoman Denise Davis would not comment on whether the campaign had concerns about the mailer.

"We have no control over the content," Davis said, referring questions to former state Assemblywoman Gwen Moore, who was paid $50,000 by the campaign to produce the mailer.The four-page mailer features an introduction from Moore, who is black, addressed "Dear Sisters," in which Moore writes: "We want you to GET THE FACTS so that you know what is in the best interest of your family and you."

It repeatedly urges a yes vote on Proposition 78 and a no vote on Proposition 79, a rival proposition backed by unions and several consumer groups that would penalize drug companies that don't provide discounts to low-income Californians.

Only a notice in small print says that appearance in the mailer does not signify endorsement of the proposition.

Moore said Friday that she had no intention of misleading voters. "I had an idea of putting out a piece that would be useful to African American women," she said. "I probably should have more carefully designed it."

Several legislators said they complained vociferously to Moore all week about the mailer. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who called the mailer "dirty politics," asked Moore to send out mailers clarifying that Lee is against Proposition 78 and for Proposition 79.

Lee campaign director Chloe Drew said the congresswoman's office had been deluged with calls from constituents who were confused by the mailer.

In response, Moore issued a short news release Friday stating that Lee and other lawmakers opposed Proposition 78.

Drew said Lee had hoped for more.

Among the other black politicians featured on the mailer who oppose Proposition 78 are: Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Carson); Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles); Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles); Assemblywoman Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles); Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke; and former Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson.

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