On Wednesday, I received a mailer from Citizens to Protect Mission Viejo. On the front, calling itself the “Mission Viejo Taxpayers’ Voting Guide,” it asked for support for current council members Dave Leckness and Rhonda Reardon, and council candidate Wendy Bucknum. On the back, it contrasts Board of Supervisor candidates Robert Ming and Lisa Bartlett, offering false facts (more about that later) about Ming, while recommending Bartlett. (As I have consistently stated, I am supporting Ming in November)
The mailer was large, in full color, and on good paper stock, so I wondered how Citizens was paying for this apparently city-wide mailer. My search at the Secretary of State and County websites came up empty, but I hit pay dirt at the City of Mission Viejo’s website (some are questioning whether Citizens was required to file with the County given that they are supporting a county-wide candidate). On September 30, 2014, Citizens received a $5,000 donation from the Orange County Employees Association, and on October 10, 2014, it received a $13,000 donation from the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association, both public employee unions.
When I see public employee unions getting involved with Republican candidates, I get curious as to how the candidates feel about union money being spent on their behalf, particularly such a large donation from two well-known public employee unions. Union money contributed directly to Republican candidates is a red flag for most conservatives (and would violate the candidate’s GOP pledge to not take union money if they signed it), so unions backing a Republican typically will make a contribution to a PAC that will then send a mail piece out as an independent expenditure. Often candidates claim they have no control of independent expenditures so they can disclaim any responsibility yet still reap the benefits of the mailer. So, I reached out to Leckness, Reardon, Bucknum, and Bartlett for comment.
To their credit, I received responses from Reardon (who signed the pledge) and Bucknum, both of whom stated that they did not know about the mailer until they received it on Wednesday, and both also stated that they have not been offered or taken any union money. After giving the candidates 24 hours to respond, I have not heard back from Leckness or Bartlett.
While I recognize that all candidates and their supporters embellish their mailers, outright lies should not be tolerated. Curiously, the PAC’s mailer repeats the same lie that Bartlett previously made against Ming falsely stating that Ming approved a loan to the City Manager at below market rates, when in fact Ming only voted for the loan on the condition that it be at prevailing market rates. (here) Unfortunately, I did not hear back from Bartlett to address whether her campaign provided any information, including the false interest rate, to the PAC for the mailer.
The PAC mailer also suffers from a lie by omission. While touting Bartlett as a fiscal conservative by noting her efforts to balance the budget and reduce pensions, the mailer conveniently ignores the fact that Ming, too, helped balance Laguna Niguel’s budget ever year that he has been on the Council.
Union money has become all to prevalent in national, state, and local politics. The unions extort dues from their members and use that never-ending supply to support candidates who they believe will further their cause. I know Reardon and Bucknum personally, and I take them at their word that they did not know anything about the union-backed mailer supporting them. I also know that Bartlett has been willing to use false facts in an effort to smear Ming, and has not retracted any of those false press releases, even when faced with undeniable evidence of the false facts. Bartlett also failed to respond to my questions about the PAC mailer that uses the same false information she previously used. I leave it to the voters to decide who to trust in November.