If stupidity were a felony, ex-county Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. would be spending a lot more time in jail. The new charges filed by District Attorney Jeff Rosen against Shirakawa, resulting from DNA samples found on a political dirty trick mailer, is the latest example.
The mailers in question were put out to make it appear that rival candidates Richard Hobbs and Magdalena Carrasco were communists. It is a laughable charge in a 21st century local election. But the goal was to trick the Vietnamese-American community.
They were strategic lies designed to elicit anger among a highly charged population who remain adamantly opposed to the current regime in Vietnam.
Truth be told, the mailers had a nominal effect on the races in question. Only the most naive and uninformed voter would take the messages seriously. The real damage is to the psyche of the political opponent. The mailers become a distraction to the target, who must take time to deny the message, denounce the mailers and become frustrated when they can find no one to hold accountable for the deception.
Rarely is the prank investigated after the campaign, and there must have been giggles all around when Shirakawa and whoever helped him thought they got away with it.
Which brings us to the next problem: Shirakawa didn’t act alone. The pieces were written, designed and printed by others. There must be more DNA out there that identifies those who helped. These folks should be lawyering up right now.
But we must caution not to speculate who was responsible before the evidence is presented. Political dirty tricks that go awry have a nasty tendency to embarrass innocent people who may have had nothing to do with them—that can include current officeholders.
Many will suspect who the unindicted co-conspirators are in this matter. But the DA has the first piece of evidence he needs to find the others involved. Shirakawa should cooperate with the investigation. Some vendors, including the designers and printers, might be totally innocent of any intentional conduct. But those who wrote the mailer, conceived the idea and, apparently, helped lick the stamps should be prosecuted.
The others who participated in this idiocy will have to face charges, and the penalty will probably be minor. But, again, if stupidity could be charged as a felony, these individuals would be doing life.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.