Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Negative Mailings, Polling, and Independent Expenditures

By now, constituents may have received a negative mailing or two and perhaps some calls asking about candidates. I wanted to mention something about "independent expenditures."

According to Minnesota law, candidates usually cannot coordinate their activities with outside groups. You may have seen this kind of thing in the presidential and senate races, where some outfit sends a mailing or pays for a TV ad and they have a disclaimer at the end--such as "no candidate is responsible for the content of this ad." These groups, which include the political parties, raise their own money. My opponent, John Kappler, and I have talked about this briefly with each other we find these negative independent expenditures to be unhelpful. Both of us have volunteers from the community working hard trying to make the case for each candidate, and it is always a surprise to suddenly find a postcard from some outside group in our mailboxes.

One mailing just came out from the DFL called "Blind Obedience," suggesting that Republicans in the legislature do not have a mind of their own. There is a legitimate discussion to be had about how the House Republican Caucus treated its six members who voted to override the Governor's veto of the transportation bill. However, this was an action in the past. I think the tone of this mailing is pretty over the top and I hope that both political parties would avoid doing these kinds of negative mailings. In 2006 and 2008, I've been targeted by the House GOP Caucus and outside groups attacking me with mail and push polls, so I know what the experience is like. Both Mr. Kappler and I are interested in talking about issues and I hope that voters will avail themselves of information from our own literature, our web sites, voters' guides, and so on to make their choice on November 4th.

There are also so-called "push polls" going on, although the nastier ones don't seem to be happening in 53A. A push poll is where a caller might say, "Would you still vote for X if you knew that they did this awful thing?" They are clearly intending to bring down one candidate with a negative attack. A constituent complained of a call from the Sierra Club where they were doing "positive persuasion," where the caller was suggesting that if the voter was interested in the environment that he should vote for me. There was no attack against the opponent. Again, this is an independent expenditure and my campaign was unaware that these calls were taking place until the constituent brought it up. I don't find positive persuasion calls to be as objectionable as the negative attack push poll, because they tend to be positive.

Stay tuned for updates about other mailings coming out.