Why won’t the anonymous authors of this ad identify themselves?

Posted by on Wed, October 27, 2004

Who bought this ad in the Review and why did they choose to remain anonymous? Click on the image for a full-size version.

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: 

  1. Did you give the space reservation to the "Citizens for Coastside Schools"?
  2. Do you know who’s behind the ads?
  3. If so, are you willing to say who it is?
  4. 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.

Comment 1
Wed, October 27, 2004 1:12pm
All my comments

While Gardner and Mosely don’t dispute the content of the ad, I certainly do. Here’s a partial list of my objections.

The ad claims that the League for Coastside Protection “is about stopping growth and not about what is in the best interests of students.”

The stated purpose of the LCP is to make sure that the law, as expressed in the California Coastal Act and our Local Coastal Programs, is enforced. Is this “about stopping growth”? Only where growth is contrary to the law. When and if Wavecrest complies with the Coastal Act and the HMB Local Coastal Plan, the League will not oppose it.

This is in contrast to the stated view of Gardner/Moseley backer Ken Jones that the California Coastal Commission is “a farce” and that those who want to see it enforced at Wavecrest are “eco-terrorists”.

The ad says: “Eight years ago CUSD had 3663 students. Last year 3633.”

This is deliberately misleading. We’ve lost 400 students since 1997, according to official and published enrollment numbers available to anyone. And enrollment decline aside, the district’s construction plans, including the Wavecrest middle school, are based on projections of rapid growth. This year our total enrollment is 1,300 below the district’s projection; middle school enrollment is 400 below the projection used to justify the new middle school.

The ad claims that my proposal to build a second middle school on the midcoast had “too many indefinites”, but neglects to point out that a second middle school is the official policy of the school district, as adopted by the school board in its Facilities Master Plan.

The ad claims that “Lundell’s policies are those of obstruction; they are not the policies needed to educate our children.” This inflammatory claim is contradicted by any number of my policy statements, easily available to anyone who cares to check, and by the many teachers who back my candidacy.

Finally, the ad claims that its sponsor, Citizens for Coastside Schools, has filed a Statement of Organization with the FPPC when it says “ID Pending”. No such statement has been filed. This claim is clearly intended to make the casual reader believe that the ad’s sponsors have disclosed their identities, and that the ad is not anonymous. This is a lie.

Last night at Farallone View I asked both Gardner and Moseley to publicly repudiate, endorse, or apolgize for the ad. Neither had a public comment.

I’m particularly disappointed in John Moseley, who has presented himself as an honest broker and mediator between opposite sides. By endorsing the ad’s content and directly benefiting from it, John abandons his credibility as a mediator, and loses his ability to reach out to much of the community should he be elected. This is a loss to all of us.

More generally, we can all hope that this ad doesn’t represent the beginning of another decline in the quality of public discourse on the coastside. We’ve come to expect anonymous attacks in state and federal elections. We don’t need them on the coastside. Let’s hope it stops here.

It’s too bad that Mr. Gardner evaded the direct question as to whether he knows who was behind the smear ad. How in the world could he not know who was behind it? This was his reserved slot.

I think the public has a right to know who is coughing up money to support Mr. Gardner and Mr. Mosely because these candidates may be inclined to pay this political favor back in the event that one or both are elected.

Even if the law does not require Mr. Gardner and Mr. Mosely to disclose who was behind the smear ad, one would hope that personal integrity would compell them do to do so. We’ll see, I guess.

Comment 3
Wed, October 27, 2004 2:35pm
Hal Bogner
All my comments

The business interests that put building Wavecrest ahead of education and all other public policy goals are experts at the politics of personal destruction.

I can personally attest that Jonathan Lundell has spent considerable time over the last three years familiarizing himself with local educational issues and has become commited to making the local schools better educationally, as well as financially.  He has supported numerous CUSD efforts to raise money via parcel taxes, and has worked with people of all political ‘factions’ to try to improve the district. 

The related attempt to ‘demonize’ anyone associated with the League for Coastside Protection - of which I am a member - is part of a larger effort by developer interests to return control of all local elected bodies to people who will allow their ‘friends’ to do anything they desire by way of new construction, regardless of both legal limits and fairness to individual lot owners and truly local tradesmen, who will again have to wait at the back of the line while all available building permits go to large developments such as Wavecrest.

Happily, a majority of voters have elected moderate majorities to numerous local boards and councils, including the Half Moon Bay City Council, the Mid-Coast Community Council, the Montary Water and Sanitary District, and the El Granada Sanitary District.  Sadly, HMB Review Publisher Debra Godshall has decided to turn her newspaper into a tool for these business interests, and has declared war on local interests and numerous elected officials.  I hope that she can be somehow help responsible for chicanery such as helping circumvent the law in the case of publishing this anonymous ad, and that someone who can maintain good jourrnalistic standards and a high degree of fairness can displace her.

The next year will be very interesting, and I hope more local citizens make the effort to become well-informed and active in looking after the public interest.

-hal bogner