Since Noses don’t grow…how do we find the truth in Political Mailers?


By Mickie Niland



Mailers are Marketing

Mailers are a marketing tool. They represent what the person paying for them wants you to believe, and they are carefully crafted to influence your vote.  The artwork, design, and colors are created to have a high visual impact. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get you to vote a certain way. Many people only look at a mailer for 30 seconds and then “round file” it in the trash. Few people study them, and even fewer verify that they are factual. Mailers are not cheap. Therefore most candidates use them wisely.

Candidates don’t want to be exposed for spreading false information about their opponent.  They know that their opponent will rebut the falsehood.  But the reality is that only a small portion of the public will ever know that the information was incorrect.  If the misinformation becomes a big issue, the one who stated it can always claim, “Sorry, it was an error,” and apologize.  However, the seed of doubt has been cast, the damage has been done, and ballots cast. Generally, mailers don’t state obvious lies.  Rather, they stretch or twist the truth, or share partial information in a way that misrepresents the truth. But sometimes there is a flagrant lie.

Negative mailers really frustrate voters. Most of the public would like the candidates to stick to telling us the positives about themselves.  However, this is difficult for a challenger to avoid, especially if the opponent is well funded or an incumbent.  The fact is, negative mailers are effective, which is the biggest reason they are used.

How can you discern the Truth?

If politicians’ noses grew when they were untruthful, we could easily spot them. But it doesn’t happen that way.  So, how can you learn the truth? You can’t trust the mainstream media.  It is rare to find any media source that does not have an agenda or that will do honest investigative reporting. So, it is left to us, the voters to fact check on our own.  Astute candidates are footnoting their proof of truth. Still, you must be careful.  Some unscrupulous candidates can cloak the truth by posting footnotes they want you to see.  Usually, this is very subtle and involves half truths, or it contains special knowledge not generally known by the average voter designed to purposely mislead. When fact checking negative items, it is important to actively look for the rebuttal from the one accused!  Basically, homework is required.

One thing I really like about mailers is the opportunity to see who is endorsing a candidate. This tells you a lot. Are they being endorsed overwhelmingly by those whose positions you support? Sometimes, there are exceptions to this rule that makes you scratch your head.  So, ask yourself, “Am I in alignment with the majority of others who have endorsed this candidate?”  Groups that endorse candidates are strong endorsements.  They usually are very principle driven, and let you know were a candidate really stands. It is wise to find political voices you trust in your community that you can check with. Nothing replaces someone who knows the behind the scene games. Even then ask them, why?

Be on the look-out for “it’s all in the family.”  In Arizona East Valley politics, be sure to check if the endorsement was given by someone who is related by blood or marriage.  Is the endorsement based on real knowledge of the candidate’s views?  Or is the endorsement based on the relationship.    

Pictures on mailers should not be assumed to mean that the person pictured has endorsed the candidate. This is another way to  mislead the voters.  If there is no direct statement of endorsement, be suspicious. 

PAC’s (Political Action Committees)

It’s important to identify third party mailers, mailers that include the legally required “Paid for by” statement, but is from a group other than any of the candidates. These usually come from a PAC, a Political Action Committee. PAC’s must be registered in Arizona, and the information made available to the public about who the PAC is and where they get their funding. This allows you to see what agenda is driving the mailer. More often than not PAC’s are more comfortable going negative than a candidate. They do the attacking and may show less concern with being factual. This allows the candidate to take the high road.  Again, check the facts.

Several things can drive a group to form a PAC, and it is critical for you to evaluate the motive behind the PAC. PAC’s are not evil in and of themselves, they are just a tool that allows freedom of speech for those who have passion for an issue and yet informs the voters of the agenda. The names and titles of these PACs can be totally misleading, so please do not judge the PAC by its title. Follow the money. 

It’s Our Responsibility to Seek the Truth

Electing wise, honest and qualified leaders requires effort on the part of the voters. As busy as voters are, getting to correct facts is difficult. Thus, mailers, radio ads, and TV commercials have become part of the marketing plans for a candidate. We can easily be misled by a conniving political advertising team. Please remember, just because someone says it or you see it in print, does not make it true.

Our lack of attention is one reason we lack good leaders.  We must wake up and make a commitment to be more informed and responsible when voting.  Each voter must make it a priority to find out the truth.

Maintaining liberty is a critical personal responsibility.

Gilbert Watch Note: 

Mickie Niland has been a Precinct Committeeman for 3 1/2 years and is running for re-election in her precinct. She served as 4th Vice chair of LD 22 and was the Campaign manager for Victor Petersen for the Gilbert Town Council election in 2010. She is currently serving as the Chairman of Legislative District 12.