OK, there's a lot of ground to cover, so I'll probably break this into a couple of pieces.
First, I'd like to clarify - this post - like my others on campaign finance - is a commentary on the state of campaign finance in the hopes of getting some traction in reforming campaign finance and bringing integrity back to our elections at *every* level of government: Federal, State, and Local.
With that, I'd like to share a few mail pieces that have been sent by an "Electioneering Communications Organization" (also known as a "527" or "ECO") called "Citizens for Ethical and Effective Leadership" - a name too long to type over and over, so we'll just call them "CFEEL."
The gallery below depicts three mailers I've received at my home over the past two years from CFEEL. Note carefully, these are not campaign literature, as they do not use any of the "eight magic words" defined by the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo as "express advocacy" which would be subject to campaign finance laws.
The "magic words" as defined in Buckley are "vote for," "elect," "support," "cast your ballot for," "Smith for Congress," "vote against," "defeat," "reject," and variations of those phrases. Anything using the "magic words" has to be paid for by campaign using the kind of fundraising money that is reflected in your donor reports.
Mailers like the ones below, put out by CFEEL are not bound by the limits for campaign fundraising. This handout from NYU's Brennan Center for Justice illustrates nicely why the "magic words" test is laughably inadequate.
There's something else all the pieces have in common. See if you can find it. I'll wait...
Did you see it?
OK, so CFEEL was back again for this election cycle, sending at least two mail pieces ("at least" because received two, but there may have been others) that were, again *fully legal* and *not electioneering* since they passed the magic words test.
See if you can find what this year's two mailers have in common...
It's a little bit like how DeBeers says "A Diamond Is Forever" and sends a clear message without ever telling you, "Go Buy A Diamond!"
Finally, I wonder if you noticed anything else interesting regarding the layout and design of the preceding mail pieces? They were sent months (or years) apart, so it would be easy for the average person to miss certain similarities in real time.
Take another look before scrolling down...
No fair looking!
OK, here are a 2015 mailing and a 2017 mailing side-by-side.
Yes, they really are two different mailers.
While recycling copy and layout for different campaigns and different mailings might certainly be considered "efficient", I'm not sure it is either "ethical" or "effective".
So much for "Citizens for Ethical and Effective Leadership."
Next post, we'll attempt to "follow the money" with CFEEL. s/o
Bill Tallman has been a Miami Springs resident since 2002, and a community activist since 2003. He believes that the best decisions tend to come from people with the best information at hand.