Local Democrats cried foul Saturday over a set of ostensibly Democratic political mailers that endorse two Republican candidates for county supervisor.
Sent out just days before the election by a for-profit group called Democratic Voters Choice, the separate mailers endorse Fifth District candidate Karen Goh and Fourth District contender David Couch under the heading "The Team for Democratic Voters." The slates include President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats.
The endorsements carry an asterisk next to the candidates' name, suggesting their campaigns contributed money for the mailers.
Couch denied any involvement in the mailers Saturday, while Goh's campaign acknowledged contributing money for the materials.
"When somebody comes forward wanting to support (Goh's candidacy) ... then that's a positive thing that we want to take forth into the community," Goh campaign representative Andy Stanley said. He added that the supervisor's team had no control over who else Democratic Voters Choice endorsed.
As for the ostensibly Democratic endorsement, he said, "There's a great diversity of support that Karen does have."
Couch, a Republican, said he was "pretty sure" his campaign did not help fund the mailer.
"I'm certain ... we didn't buy our way onto any Democrat slate mailer," he said adding that he did pay for Republican slate mailers and received endorsements from Republican groups.
The mailer that endorses Goh also endorses Democrat Rudy Salas, the Bakersfield city councilman running for state Assembly. It has no asterisk next to his name, however, and Salas denied any involvement with the mailer, calling the material "disingenuous."
Local Democrats said the Goh mailers in particular appear to be part of a recent pattern of misleading political moves.
They pointed to people working on her behalf misrepresenting petitions and her campaign's recent claim that a local monsignor had supported her, which he later downplayed.
The mailers and the endorsements that hit local mailboxes Saturday did not come from the Kern County Democratic Party, Chairwoman Candi Easter confirmed.
"I think it's very misleading," Easter said of the Goh endorsement, adding that her group supports Goh's Democratic opponent, Leticia Perez.
Easter went easier on Couch, saying he may have been the victim of a smear tactic. But if he did contribute money toward the mailer, "he's misleading people," she said.
Democratic Voters Choice has faced frequent criticism for sending out mailers that appear to represent Democratic views but which endorse Republicans. Similar to the group's Goh and Couch endorsement materials, they typically feature quotes by well-known Democrats such as John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission identifies Democratic Voters Choice as a for-profit business that spends millions of dollars each election cycle to influence votes. In the 2007-08 election cycle, the commission listed the group as the fourth largest such group by expenditures, at $920,596.
"The more money a campaign spends on each slate mailing, usually equates to more room on the slate mailer profiling the candidate and/or ballot measure," the commission's website states.