Pay for Play: Some WeHo City Council Candidates Are Buying Faux Endorsements

It’s trash time!

If you live in West Hollywood and are a registered voter, you have been finding your mailbox packed with glossy sheets of paper promoting various candidates and propositions on the ballot in the Nov. 3 election. Warning: Much more is coming.

Campaign mailers — not an environmentally friendly way to get the word out– are tools that oddly are still being used in this digital age by people running for local offices. Candidates running for national and state offices have embraced social media and text messaging (which a few of the nine candidates in the West Hollywood City Council election actually are also using a bit.)

So far, the biggest users of paper and postage to promote their campaigns are City Councilmember John Duran and challengerS John Erickson and Sepi Shyne. This writer has now received three mailers from Duran, three from Shyne, and four from Erickson. John Heilman, the other incumbent in the race, also has sent out one paper campaign flyer, as has challenger Larry Block .

But you also will soon be receiving, if you haven’t already, some sketchy campaign flyers that purport to represent certain groups and causes and that state their endorsements for specific candidates. In fact, those groups don’t exist. it’s all a “pay for play” scheme that has been called out by media organizations such as the Sacramento Bee and the late San Diego Free Press (it closed in December 2018), in a story appropriately headlined as “Slate Mailers and Other Weapons of Mass Deception.”

Citing a study — “The Stealth Campaign: Experimental Studies of Slate Mail in California” — published in 2001 in the Journal of Law & Politics, the Free Press wrote: “Here’s the deal: slate mailer campaigns are most effective with voters who are less engaged and informed. And best of all, for campaigns with limited budgets, they’re cheap.”

So what mailers should you be throwing directly into the trash? (Use the recycling bin please. If the candidates aren’t environmentally conscious, you should be.)

One that has already arrived in many mail boxes brands itself as the “Senior Citizen Voter Information Guide,” prepared by the “Coalition for Senior Citizen Security.” It endorses Joe Biden for president and Kamala Harris for vice president. Then it offers a list of other endorsements ranging from Myanna Dellinger and David Berger for superior court judge to David Vela for the L.A. County College District 3 seat and winds up endorsing Larry Block and John Erickson, both candidates for seats on the West Hollywood City Council. It also calls out propositions on the ballot, declaring yes on 15, 17, 19, and 22, and no on 20, 21, and 23.

A mailer from the Coalition for Senior Citizen Security, a fake organization created to promote candidates who pay for its endorsement

What voters aren’t likely to know is that Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and supporters of Proposition 15 are the only ones who didn’t pay for the endorsement of the Coalition for Senior Citizen Security. (Block paid $295 as did Erickson. The others, needing to reach a wider audience, paid much more). If you’re able to read the infinitesimally small type on the mailer, you’ll learn that each of those who paid to play is identified with an asterisk. That’s a requirement of a state law that otherwise appears to be lax in governing such mailers.

The Coalition actually is a front created by Gould & Orellana LLC, a partnership of political consultants and financial advisors David L. Gould and Ingrid Orellana that is based in Long Beach, and Renee Nahum & Associates, a political campaign firm in Los Angeles whose president is the former political director of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.  The Coalition’s most recent filing with the California Secretary of State shows Nahum made $35,000 off that mailer and Gould & Orellana made $2,849. 

In a 2016 review of the Coalition for Senior Citizen Security on TrustLink, a website where people rate the validity of organizations and businesses, a woman identified as Jenny writes that she can’t find a website or even an active phone number for the Coalition.

“Sketchy, eh? WHAT are they HIDING? I don’t want this crap in my mailbox! WHO is behind this? WHAT BIG MONEY? I won’t vote for anyone based on some flyer in my mailbox without knowing who is PAYING for this. Total rip-off scammers. The antithesis of democracy in action. I put a pox on ’em!”

So what’s coming next? A review of campaign finance documents indicates a lot of paper will be flowing your way. Some probably from Larry Levine, one of the county’s most prominent “slate mailers.” But you should know that none of the consulting firms behind the fake organizations are required to identify themselves on the mailer.

Here’s a list of mailers coming from other political consultants along with the West Hollywood City Council candidates they are endorsing and what each candidate is paying for the so-called endorsement:

  • California Early Voter Guide:  John Heilman ($389.55)
  • California for Quality Education:  John Heilman ($300)
  • California Latino Voters Guide:  John Erickson ($300)
  • California Women Lead:  Noemi Torres ($150)
  • Californians for a Sustainable Future:  John Heilman ($146.20)
  • Coalition of Concerned Women Voters: Larry Block ($295), John Erickson ($295)
  • Coalition for Senior Citizen Security:  Larry Block ($295), John Erickson ($295)
  • Democratic Voters Choice:  John Heilman ($1,013.70)
  • Educate Your Vote: John Erickson ($623)
  • Our Voice Latino Voter Guide: John Erickson ($117)
  • Progressive Voter Guide: Larry Block ($331), John Erickson ($331)
  • Voter Newsletter:  Larry Block ($1,000), John Heilman ($1,000)

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that Renee Nahum is the political director of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. In fact, Renee Nahum is the party’s former political director. The story has been updated to reflect that.

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Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
17 days ago

Slate mailers have been around for years and are nothing more than legalized extortion by the whoring political consulting industry. Win or lose, the consultants make money and keep going back to the brothel for more business. Direct endorsements are merely part of the game played by the incestual cabal of party politics, and the quaint and charming clubs they create to give some impression of an institutionalized imprimatur conferred upon a favored (usually insider) candidate (See Stonewall Democratic Club). We are a 1.9 square mile hamlet of roughly 37,000 residents. This is the perfect town for retail politics. Get… Read more »

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
17 days ago

I don’t like these slate mailers – but they are neither good nor bad and they’re not going away. Unless you know an advocacy group is real, why would anyone care who they’ve endorsed. But going a little deeper, even if we were talking about a legitimate organization, say Beverly Hills/West Hollywood Democratic Club or Stonewall Democratic Club, for example — wouldn’t you question the integrity of the “endorsement” if the candidate paid to be listed on their mailer? I would hope it would raise a question in your mind and you would either investigate why the candidate had to… Read more »

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
17 days ago

Nothing new this has been going on for years. Now we just have the council race in November instead of spring so the council candidates can actually pay to be on these cards. Welcome to moving local races to November! People wanted more turnout in local elections, this comes with the territory. It’ll only get worse.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
18 days ago

Hank, Thanks for the great investigative journalism. This is why people in the know and those that want to be in the know read WeHoville.

Manny
Manny
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Steve, you never heard of this? You’re a former council member, this type of messaging as been around forever. Even I know that.

Randy
Randy
17 days ago
Reply to  Manny

Where does he say that he didn’t already know that?

Art
Art
18 days ago

You left out the COPS voter guide–I always vote the opposite from what they want!!!

John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
18 days ago

Never Vote based on endorsements, do your own due diligence based on Candidates proposed policies, Politics is a dirty business

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
18 days ago

Chamber endorsed Duran, Heilman and Block.

Last edited 18 days ago by Michael Grace
Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
18 days ago

Sadly, it’s the voter who knows the least who has the most power.

Savvy politicians know this and count on exciting the masses with emotional appeals and misinformation. The use of words like “diversity” and “inclusion” will buy a lot of votes today when the candidate has absolutely no particular reason to use them. But the low-informed voter doesn’t know nor care about that; but it sounds good. It’s the politicians who appear the slickest and who have the greatest mass appeal who I am on guard for. They scare me!

Larry Block
Larry Block
18 days ago

Slate Cards- these are called. They are not faux endorsement- l a Slate cards are paid for by the candidate and in return a candidate gets a certain amount of lines or characters to say something about themselves. The cost per each slate is about a dime per mail. It gives some candidates a chance to reach a segment of voters in a cost effective manner. And each candidate says something ‘in their own words’ and the slates are mailed to target markets-/ seniors, or Green slate – or dems or rep or independents – this is no different that… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
18 days ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Funny that you mention Duran with Hillary Clinton. When I saw that photo it immediately conjured up that image of Ed Buck with Clinton.

jay
jay
18 days ago

Thank you for getting the word out about this sneaky tactic Hank! Had no idea. One day our campaign finance reform prince(ss) will come…

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
18 days ago

Well, well, well…look at Block playing this silly game too all the while trying to make folks believe he’s above it all. Sepi and Marco for the win!

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
18 days ago
Reply to  Tom Smart

I see Larry Block as the most honest of all the candidates. I have followed him mostly through his comments here on WeHoVille.com and found him to be completely unpretentious and brutally honest. He hasn’t done anything for political gain or calculation.

Sepi, on the other hand, is slick and she scares me.

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
18 days ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

Many of us have seen Block flip-flop over the years. He was anti-council and for term limits. Then he was pro Heilman and Duran for a time and now when he wants a council seat he’s anti incumbent again.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
18 days ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

The problem for both Larry and John Erickson is that they are on a slate mailer that says vote “No” on 21, expanded rent control protections, and “Yes” on Prop. 22 the phony “driver protection” measure sponsored by Uber and Lyft. Both of these positions are opposite of the positions taken by the Democratic Party of California. It makes you wonder where these guys actually stand.

Jay
Jay
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Thank you for highlighting this Steve!

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Steve: Do you ever take Uber? 80 percent of the drivers are part time. Students, unemployed. They are independent contractors. AB 5 basically said you couldn’t be an independent contractor. This also applied to musicians and freelance writers who could only do so many articles a month freelance. Which meant they were dropped. But you just pontificate and don’t investigate. If the Dem Party told you to use an outhouse you would. Frankly, Block and Erickson have my vote just based on YES on Prop 22.

Doug B
Doug B
17 days ago
Reply to  Michael Grace

If drivers of Uber and Lyft were truly independent contractors, they would be able to set their own rates. If these companies want to engage independent contractors for this work, they should just follow the law, not change it. AB5 did not say you couldn’t be an independent contractor, it just requires the hiring entity to pass the ABC Test. Prop 22 has nothing to do with the drivers, but is for these large corporations to keep more money and pay less to the state in taxes. The working people of California will end up footing the bill, and the… Read more »

Larry Block
Larry Block
17 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

I am a no on 21 – yes on 22 guy. Not sure bout Erickson think he is opposite on both.

David
David
9 days ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Please re-think any Yes on 22. This measure is coming from Lyft and Uber and doesn’t protect people who work long hours because it’s their only source of income. NYT, and a number of other Democratic leaning representatives including Biden and Harris have come out against it. It was voted down by a local court and appears again in California because Lyft and Uber spent million’s getting on the ballot.

Last edited 9 days ago by David
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