Why won’t the anonymous authors of this ad identify themselves?
It’s still unclear who was behind an anonymous ad attacking CUSD board candidate Jonathan Lundell in last Wednesday’s Half Moon Bay Review.
The ad was designed to sit next to Lundell’s ad, copying the layout, typeface and color of his ads. While the content was a straightforward attack on Lundell’s positions and motives for running which neither of Lundell’s opponents dispute, whoever took out the ad has taken care to disguise their identity.
The ad was the work of something calling itself "Citizens for Coastside Schools" and where normally a political committee would list an ID number, the ad says only "ID pending". But no such committee has registered with the state, or with the county filing office, so it’s not clear what "ID pending" means. You can search the California Secretary of State’s website yourself by clicking on this link.
Campaign committees are required to register by law if the committee raises or spends more than $1,000, but one quarter-page ad would have cost less than that and there is no ad in today’s Review. So, we may never know who took out this mysterious ad.
The ad appeared in space reserved by Charles Gardner, a premium quarter-page slot on the third page of the main section (page 3A) of the paper. Last week, Gardner decided to share Moseley’s less-desirable quarter page on page 7A, instead of using his premium slot, or sharing it with Moseley.
I asked Moseley about the Citizens for Coastside Schools ad and he told me, "I don’t know who did it and I was not a part of the planning of it." He went on to say that he didn’t necessarily disagree with the content of the ad, and that it raised issues worth discussing: "Jonathan Lundell is part of the League for Coastside Protection. He hasn’t promoted that he was part of it, or that he was involved in the Measure D campaign." Measure D was an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the building of a middle school west of Highway 1.
Moseley says that Gardner wanted to abandon his 3A slot to share Moseley’s 7A space: "Charlie got on the ball first and got the reservation on the best space on page 3A. But I understand Charlie asked to be part of my ad [on page 7A]". Moseley says that his campaign manager Lou Cohen told him that he (Moseley) and Gardner would be sharing Moseley’s space on 7A last Wednesday.
Moseley’s campaign manager, Lou Cohen, says they had the space reserved and had almost decided not run last week, when the Gardner campaign called them. Cohen says, "I think they [the Gardner campaign] approached us about sharing the 7A space." Cohen also felt that the content of the anonymous ad was fair, saying, "I think the real story is why is Lundell running for school board?"
I asked Gardner four questions in email:
- Did you give the space reservation to the "Citizens for Coastside Schools"?
- Do you know who’s behind the ads?
- If so, are you willing to say who it is?
- Do you have any comment on the content of the ad or its effect on the campaign?
I received the following reply from him:
To respond to your questions, we placed a joint ad with Moseley on 7A. The ad your refer to seemed to reiterate Mr. Lundell’s stated and written positions, and other than that I have no further comments.
We’re left with a question. Both Moseley and Gardner don’t dispute the content of the ad. So, why did the authors decide to keep their identity a secret?
UPDATE: Since I planned to post the full text of this ad on Coastsider, I notified Jonathan Lundell and asked him for a response. Lundell’s response to the points raised in the ad has been posted as a comment on this story.