Over the past few days, packets of anti-Democrat political literature tucked into plastic sandwich bags were tossed into East Side driveways. Don’t assume it’s litter. Nope, it’s apparently a broadside from some bag ladies with an Indian Hill address who call themselves a “grassroots, conservative group.” They are new on the scene and bent on kicking President Barack Obama out of office, along with anybody who might possibly share his views. But they might be cheating, or tools of someone who is flouting the law.
There are 16 political pieces in the plastic bags, including an ad for the anti-Obama movie You Don’t Know Him. All but one are properly labeled with disclaimers that show who paid for each piece. For example, the Mitt Romney flier says it was paid for by the Romney campaign. The Sean Donovan for Sheriff of Hamilton County was paid for by Donovan for Sheriff. But a piece that attacks U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is a mystery — nothing identifies its source. You cannot discover who is behind it. The flier lists 10 reasons why Ohio voters should replace Democrat Brown with Republican candidate Josh Mandel. The piece concludes by saying, “This November 6, Vote for New Leadership for Ohio. Vote Josh Mandel for Senator.”
The secret source of the handbill has the earmarks of a dirty trick. Laws and rules governing electioneering make it clear printed material seeking to influence voters must disclose where it came from. The mandatory disclaimer is what a person endlessly hears on TV commercials — “I’m so and so and I paid for this ad.” Print material has the same requirement — “Paid for by Save the Seahorses” or whoever is responsible.
So whoever gave the conservative ladies the anti-Brown handbill for their plastic bags seems to have broken the law. Perhaps it was the coal mining industry, perhaps it was the Chinese government, perhaps it was Ayn Rand back from the dead. Without a disclaimer there is just no way to know who paid for the anti-Brown attack. You are left to guess. All we know is that the writer didn’t have the guts to stand behind the attack. They preferred shadowy and sneaky over open and upright.
The Federal Election Commission publishes the rules campaigns must follow. It says, “On printed materials, the disclaimer notice must appear within a printed box set apart from the other contents in the communication. The print must be of a sufficient type-size to be clearly readable by the recipient of the communication, and the print must have a reasonable degree of color contrast between the background and the printed statement.”
By the way, the group that is tossing the plastic bags into driveways calls itself Women for Liberty. There is no website for the group, although it appears to be an offshoot of another group with the same name that is based in a Washington, D.C. suburb and cites a libertarian philosophy.