Neither Feinstein, D-Calif., nor her campaign approved the "Voter Information Guide for Democrats" showing up in mailboxes across California, according to a news release the campaign issued Friday.
The slate mailer has her photo on its cover. Inside it encourages people to oppose Proposition 86, which would impose a $2.60-per-pack cigarette tax mostly to benefit hospital emergency rooms, and Proposition 87, which would impose a tax upon oil drilling to benefit alternative energy research. Feinstein supports both.
The mailer's fine print says "(a)ppearance in this mailer does not necessarily imply endorsement by others appearing in this mailer, nor does it imply endorsement of or opposition to any issues set forth in this mailer." It also says the mailer was "(n)ot paid for or authorized by candidates not designated by an *."
Feinstein's name doesn't carry an asterisk in the mailer, but both Propositions 86 and 87 do.
Campaign finance reports show the Californians Against Unaccountable Taxes, a committee opposing Proposition 86, has paid the Sherman Oaks-based Voter Information Guide $75,000 this year, while Californians Against Higher Taxes/No on 87 has paid $300,000.
A different slate mailer that's actually published by the California Democratic Party encourages voters to support Propositions 86 and 87.
Voter Information Guide publisher Larry Levine is a political consultant who has been compiling slate mailers since 1971. He noted Friday that Feinstein's photo is overlayed with a "No on Proposition 85" message, referring to a measure which would require parental notification of abortion.
"It's a single-issue message where she's concerned," he said.
As for his mailer's opposition to Propositions 86 and 87, Levine said he came to his own conclusions before accepting any money from the campaigns: "I called them before they called me because I knew what my position was." He said he never allows rival candidates or ballot committees get into bidding wars for space in his mailers, and has never sold space to a committee with which he personally disagrees.
Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles and a former Fair Political Practices Commission general counsel who authored the Political Reform Act of 1974, said candidates "get really upset when their names are used, but there's not much they can do about it except scream to the slate-mailer people.
"It happens all the time. They'll put candidates onto their mailers and they're certainly allowed to do it, but the candidates don't have to like it and it clearly is misleading."
Levine reportedly took some heat in San Diego before June's primary election when his "Voter Information Guide for Democrats" endorsed a Republican county supervisor down there.
A similar situation erupted in 2005 as Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and other African-American lawmakers complained the Los Angeles-based "Black Women's Political Guide and Information" committee run by political consultant and former Assemblywoman Gwen Moore had published a slate mailer with their names and pictures which encouraged support for the pharmaceutical industry's prescription drug measure, Proposition 78, which they staunchly opposed.
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