A direct mail piece targeting District 5 City Director Karen Garcia was sent using the Republican Party of Garland County’s bulk mailing permit, according to the U.S. Postal Service’s response to Garcia’s Freedom of Information Act request.
Former Republican state Rep. Mickey Gates said he mistakenly used the permit to send the mailer on behalf of a customer of his promotional products company. The USPS response showed the address of Gates’ company below RPGC’s permit number.
RPGC Secretary Jim Keary said Thursday that the county committee didn’t authorize the mailer or know anything about it.
Gates said one of his company’s vendors printed the mailer calling Garcia a “tax and spend Democrat.” Images of President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, along with the Soviet hammer and sickle emblem, were also on the mailer.
Garcia won reelection to the Hot Springs Board of Directors, defeating Chad Polk 1,198-727 in the nonpartisan race, according to Nov. 8 election results certified Friday. RPGC contributed $750 to Polk’s campaign, according to the preelection report he filed with the county clerk’s office.
The mailer didn’t include the “paid for by” disclosure required by campaign finance law, and Gates declined to name on whose behalf it was sent.
“I was the one who put it in the mail for the customer,” he said Thursday. “It’s an individual. I’ve met them one time. They paid in advance. I’ve never met them since. It was a private individual expressing free speech. It was not put out by a candidate, nor was it put out by a party, so it was not subject to the same laws that govern candidates or parties.”
The campaign signs and materials subchapter of the election code requires campaign materials to include “paid for by” and the name of the candidate, committee or person who paid for the materials. The disclosure requirement applies to campaign materials created or sponsored by a candidate, campaign, political action committee or an independent expenditure committee.
The state Ethics Commission says the disclosure law may not apply to all materials. Those not sent by a candidate, campaign, PAC or independent expenditure committee, and not created in coordination or consultation with a candidate, campaign or committee, may be the exception.
Polk disavowed the mailer when asked about it earlier this month.
“I have no knowledge of its source,” he said. “It was most certainly not authorized by or paid by my campaign.”
Polk reported paying Gates’ company more than $1,000 for direct mail and postage, according to his preelection report. Gates said postcards he produced for Polk’s campaign met disclosure requirements.
“Somewhere on there it says ‘paid for by Chad Polk,'” he said. “Postcards are what I mainly do during political seasons. Most candidates choose postcards because they’re one of the cheapest forms of getting their message out.
“The pieces I create are all positive. I personally don’t like hit pieces. I personally don’t think they’re effective. I think money is better spent promoting the cause you’re wanting to promote rather than attacking.”
Donell Meadows filed a complaint against Polk with the state Board of Election Commissioners earlier this month alleging Polk violated campaign disclosure requirements. The state election board said Friday that it won’t begin the process of determining if complaints need to be investigated until after it certifies the election next week.
The board’s rules allow 180 days to resolve a complaint, extending to 240 days if a hearing is necessary.
Violating campaign finance laws is a Class A misdemeanor, according to the election code.
Print Headline: City director tracks down source of undisclosed mailer
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