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Throwing Mailers at the Wall: What Sticks?

3:59 PM ET, 10/10/2010
The topic du jour in state legislative races around Colorado this week has the U.S. Postal Service jumping for joy, but that's about it--as the Colorado Independent's Troy Hooper reported Friday:

Colorado's political landscape is rife with mailers espousing "believe-it-or-not gems," as the Denver Post put it Wednesday. The newspaper focused on Kathleen Curry, the state representative for Aspen's House District 61 who broke ranks with Democrats last year and became an independent by her own choosing. Recent mailers insinuate the Democrats rejected her, which Curry told the Post was "almost laughable."

On the other side of the political aisle, District 18 hopeful Karen Cullen is so outraged by an Accountability for Colorado mailer that allegedly misattributed information that she is asking the district attorney to investigate, according to a report this week in the Colorado Springs Gazette. And Republican House candidate Tom Janich has reported what he says are misleading campaign fliers about his past criminal record to the Adams County district attorney, according to the Post...

Misleading or not, it's not entirely clear how effective campaign mailers are in the first place.

Attack mailings against candidates with relatively low name ID (state legislative races being the perfect example) from the countless number of generically-named issue committes are nevertheless considered effective tools, and are heavily employed by both sides. This year has been unusual for the amount of press devoted to particular controversial examples; and that coverage could, by itself, reduce their effectiveness somewhat.

We certainly can't defend some of the mailings hitting various candidates on either side. The "mushroom cloud" mailing in recent press comes to mind; a tumor close-up, or the three-eyed fish from The Simpsons, would have been more appropriate to the subject of radioactive waste. What we know of the examples cited by the Independent above, however, are certainly open to interpretation. With regard to Kathleen Curry, we documented her estrangement from Democrats at the time, following her repeatedly siding with the Republican minority on a range of issues--sometimes most antagonistically--and it's silly of her to suggest that the animosity by that point was not mutual.

In the case of House District 18 candidate Karen Cullen, the matter is a little more complicated. She's bent out of shape because a mailer says she supports cutting education rather than cutting tax breaks as was done this past legislative session, citing a candidate survey in the Colorado Springs newspaper that doesn't directly mention education. But as Rep. Mark Ferrandino points out in defense of the mailer, Cullen did single out the tax exemption repeal for criticism in that same candidate survey; and as anybody on the Joint Budget Committee can tell you, there's basically nothing left to cut besides education. So...what's so 'inaccurate?' The answer should include specifics for best results, and that's liable to be a problem.

As for Tom Janich? We haven't seen the mailer hitting him, but what we know of his classy arrest record--including assaulting a police officer and resisting--suggests that the absolute last thing he should be doing is drawing more attention to it. In his case, definitely smarter to just let it go.

Have you seen any particularly egregious mailers--or any other examples of candidates who doth protest too much? We'd love to hear about them on either side. It's entertaining, not to mention your (well, probably not your) untraceable 501(c)(4) dollars at work.


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