Accountability Mailer or Hit Piece?

Here comes the clutter of political advertisements. The public's least favorite time of year, when mailboxes are stuffed full of negative mailers and television ads assault the senses. It is caveat emptor out there, but informed voters are always the best.

First rule to remember: there is no truth in advertising in politics. Your local dentist can't lie to you in a TV ad and Listerine can't claim to cure the common cold. But campaigns can say whatever they like, regardless of the veracity

Products and regular advertisers are governed by Federal Communications Commission. Commercial speech can be regulated, according to the Supreme Court, in the interest of public safety.

Political speech, however, is not commercial speech and is protected, even if it is dishonest. There is nothing that can't be said in politics, no matter how outrageous the claim. There is no third party arbiter to determine whether campaign literature is true or not.  The Supreme Court has protected political speech to the point that if you "think it" you can say it. Evidence is not required.

Climate deniers would be locked up if political speech were regulated even half as much as commercial speech.

In the past, some in the media have attempted to alert voters to a piece of mail or an ad that was patently untrue. But true journalism is rare our current era and much of it has become partisan and egalitarian in nature. Moreover, anyone with a computer can claim to be a journalist—much to the chagrin of the few true professionals left in the business.

Moreover, in today's day and age, a media source is more likely to take a partisan side than provide real objective reporting. Ed Marrow must be weeping in his grave.

So it is up to the voter to make an effort to distinguish fact from fiction. Now, some folks would simply dismiss all of the information they receive. Others believe every written or spoken word, falsely believing that libel and slander laws actually apply in the public debate. As noted above, they do not.

But that does not mean information given is not verifiable. Some of it is important and voters must take the next step to verify the information they are receiving. Democracy is a participatory sport and if we are to improve the process, voters must become engaged. They can also trust some sources. You may not agree with former Mayor Susan Hammer on an issue or candidate, but she is not going to lie to you.

Other trusted leaders include Mike Fox Sr., Congress members Mike Honda, Zoe Lofgren, and Anna Eshoo. Republicans Sheriff Laurie Smith and former Assemblyman Jim Cunneen are reliable sources. San Jose icons Carl Guardino, Bob Kieve, Susie Wilson, Dianne McKenna, Liz Kniss, former Assemblyman Dom Cortese are also good public policy validators, among many others.

This is not to say you will agree with them, just that you can believe what they say. They are all honest people.

On the other hand, if you get messages from the local Tea Party—you know right away the information is a lie.

Finally, there is a difference between an accountability mailer and ad, which stick to issues germane to the election, and "hit" pieces designed to destroy the personal character of another candidate. There are exceptions, but these "hit" ads are rarely true and should appropriately line the bird cage or litter box

But voters must be aware of what is coming. They must be discerning in their analysis of the information. For in a democratic republic, the voters are the ultimate arbiters of truth in a campaign. Use that power wisely.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. Rich how about accountability for those you hire?

    Your old padowan James Rowen just posted that a few days ago. It’s been 4 years since I ran. What right does he have to continually harass me after 4 years? You can stretch words out, you can write what you like, but at the end of the day you employed this guy. SJI has given this nutjob a forum. I’m sick and tired of it. This is not politics, calling up peoples potential employers and harassing them is not politics. Has nothing to do with politics.

    I have a lot more to write about this. 4 years of this is enough, but right now I’m at work, with other matters to attend to.

    • Oh, wow!

      Pretty dishy stuff.

      If true, it makes Rich Robinson look pretty hypocritical.

      On the other hand, Rich didn’t include you on the list of political insiders who can be believed.

      I need more data.

  2. Ironic words for a political operative who has made his living off of making baseless attacks on political enemies with the phrase “rumor has it…” If there is one person with a track record if dishonesty, it is Rich Robinson, and listing off his clients and allies as the valley’s only reliable truth tellers is not something to take seriously.

    • > and listing off his clients and allies as the valley’s only reliable truth tellers is not something to take seriously.

      You said it before I could!

      Rich is like a progressive lab rat. If you want to understand how progressives behave, just plant an electrode in his brain and put him in a maze.

      Show him pictures of George Bush, and he’ll get vicious and snarly and chew his tail off.

      Show him pictures of Barack and Hillary and he’ll stop eating, lose his sex drive, and go into a deep, trance-like catatonic state.

  3. Don’t know who Ed Marrow is, but Edward R. Murrow would be pretty disgusted with the state of today’s stable of “reporters.”

    And climate alarmists would be locked up… it’s been nearly 18 years since there has been any appreciable “global” warming.

  4. Again, most personal political attacks are false and belong as liners for cat litter. I guess the same could be said for some the dribble that passes for blog conversation here. . .Just for the record; Jim Rowen is not on my payroll, Robert Cortese is not on list of credible people, we do not make “baseless” political attacks, not all those I listed are allies or people I agree with, very supportive of the President–but only FOX News causes me to get snarly, and Edward R. Murrow’s friends called him “Ed” and sometimes typos occur in blogs.

    • The entire existence of Mr. Robinson’s beloved Party depends on having a majority of just the sort of voters who can easily be duped by precisely the sort of garbagy ads about which he complains. If Democrat voters weren’t so gullible they wouldn’t be Democrats- and they wouldn’t vote for Democrats.
      And another thing.
      How many times must Mr. Robinson be corrected on this particular vocabulary issue?
      It’s not dribble. It’s drivel.
      Dee Arr Eye Vee Eee Ell.
      The word you want is drivel.
      Got it?

      • Mr. Robinson is a highly educated law school graduate, attorney, and writer.

        If he said “dribble”, I accept that he MEANT “dribble’, although it’s kind of difficult to parse the relevance of “dribble” in the offered context.

    • “…the stuff that leaks from the mouths of babies.”

      Isn’t that usually called “drool?”

      • “Drool” is what leaks from the mouths of horndogs like Bill Clinton when they see the annual Sports Illustrated swim suit issue.

        “Dribble” is what leaks from Billy Bubb’s mouth when he sees Hillary in a swim suit.

        • what comes out of your mouth when you are mouth gaping over at the kiddie playground lol friggin’ fruit

  5. When ever I think of the drivel that came from Clinton I think of the words “I did not sleep with that woman”… no he didn’t but he sure did other things with her that would make my mother in law blush. And though technically not a lie we all know the truth about that incident. So I guess Rich is telling us he did not sleep with James Rowen, the mind boggles but we all know that somehow somewhere that Rich and James do their own dance and the community has to continue with this drivel. While he goes on happily writing crap Rich won’t acknowledge him publicly. Rich I have no doubt you sleep at night, and though you may not personally pay him or have him on your company books I am absolutely sure that there are ways you manage to support him. I am reminded of John 18:15-27 – aka when Peter denied Jesus look it up you might need some coming to Jesus time!

  6. Speaking of Billy Bubb Clinton:

    > DAVIS, Calif. (AP) – Former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday urged California Democrats to vote, saying it is the only solution to political gridlock in Washington, D.C., as he rallied with vulnerable congressional incumbents who are at risk of losing their seats in Tuesday’s midterm elections.


    In California?

    What the hell is he talking about?

    California is run from top to bottom by Democrats.

    California is a perfect, gridlock-free society if there ever was one.

    The “gridlock” in Washington has a name: Harry Reid.

    There are over 300 bills passed by the House sitting on Harry Reid’s desk that Reid refuses to allow the Senate to vote on.

    Reid has basically shut down the federal legistature by shutting down the senate, GIVING Obama a rationale to govern by executive order.

    • Send something that they could pass in the senate…..the only bills coming out of the house are bills to pander to the right wing and teabag party with NO expectation of making into law anyways….theater……grandstanding….wasting time!!

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