07 November 2006

Voters: Beware of Phony Voter Guides

California voters have been flooded with deceptive, official-looking voter guides in the weeks running up to today's election.

Mailings titled "Voter Information for Democrats" and "Senior Citizen Voter Information" resemble voter guides put out by the political parties and advocacy groups, like the AARP or the League of Conservation Voters.

But the groups behind these mailings are hiding their true identities -- they are in part funded by the tobacco and oil industries, according to campaign watchdog groups.

"These mailers are designed to be misleading," says Kim Alexander of the non-profit, non-partisan California Voter Foundation. "Many voters believe they represent an ideology that they really don't."

For example, the guide titled "Voter Information for Democrats" features a smiling Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) on its cover and urges voters to vote "No" on two ballot propositions that Feinstein and other Democrats actually support. One proposition would increase the tax on cigarettes while the other would create new taxes for the oil industry.

Front groups for corporations, including R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, Chevron Corporation, Occidental Oil & Gas and Aera Energy, helped pay for the mailing, according to campaign finance filings.

The records show the same groups contributed to the "Coalition for Senior Citizen Security" for the guide titled "Senior Citizen Voter Information."

While the pamphlets state that the groups are "not an official political party or organization," Alexander says people still get confused and advises voters to always read the fine print.


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