by Ryan Burns
Background: Shortly before Election Day we reported on a series of slate mailers that had recently appeared in local mailboxes. Of the various endorsements printed on these mailers, the name of Rex Bohn was about the only constant.
One flier looked über-lefty; another looked gun-nut conservative; and there appeared no rhyme or reason to the suggestions on ballot measures. Was this a deliberate attempt from Bohn to mislead voters?
We tried and failed to get an informed response from him before Election Day. (In case you missed it, the Eureka businessman community organizer/dirt scout wound up winning the 1st District seat on the county's board of supervisors by a comfortable margin.)
In the meantime, we (okay, I) learned a bit more about the for-profit companies that put out these mailers. Bottom line: They're not to be trusted. The Chronicle explains that these mailers "may be nothing more than a collection of endorsements sold to the highest bidder and packaged to look as if they represent a particular political philosophy."
Several political historians reminded us in our comments section that Bohn certainly wasn't the first local candidate to employ these suckers. (We're looking at you, District Attorney Gallegos.)
The latest: When we finally connected with Bohn this afternoon he said that it took him a while to track down just what we were asking about but that, yes, his campaign paid to be listed on the mailers. He said the companies behind them offered a pitch: For two-and-a-half to three cents per word, they'd spread the message of his choice (up to 25 words) to both Democrats and Republicans in his district. Upon request they listed the names of previous candidates who'd used their services, and they gave their FPPC bona fides.
"It sounded like a very economical way to get my message across," Bohn said, adding that he has yet to see any of these mailers himself. (Note: In our original post, the mailer that read "Republicans are voting for Rex" was not a slate mailer; that one was produced by Bohn's campaign.)
Bohn said he didn't know what messages would appear beside his own and he apologized if anyone was confused by them (a prospect he found doubtful, since no one but the Journal has mentioned the mailers to him, he added).
At any rate, he said, "I hope it was more successful than confusing."