For the second time in a week mysterious mailers were sent out to Indiana residents urging them to support Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton.
Like the previous pro-Brenton mailers, the second examples are highly critical of Republican Mike Braun’s tax record, and do not even mention Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly.
But unlike the mailers that appeared over the weekend, these mailers did not include a disclaimer stating who had paid for them.
Mysterious mailers appear to violate federal law
Federal law requires all campaign material, even when it is sent from nonconnected PACs, to contain a disclaimer clearly saying how it was paid for. In line with regulations, the mailers distributed in south Indiana over the weekend were clearly identified as having been paid for by the Indiana Democratic Party.
The new mailers, believed to have been distributed in and around Indianapolis, contain no disclaimer at all.
Who sent out the mysterious mailers?
Violating federal campaign law is no laughing matter. It seems unlikely a well-respected organization like the Indiana Democratic Party would risk producing anonymous campaign literature. Likewise, it seems unlikely the Republicans would produce material attacking their own candidate.
But it is also extremely unlikely the mailers came from either the Brenton campaign or the Libertarian Party of Indiana (LPIN).
“I learned today that there was a second mailer supporting my campaign for U.S. Senate,” Brenton told News Growl in an email. “I was shocked as I had not authorized or participated in its release. This is indicative of the problems inherent with outside interests attempting to influence our elections.
“I have only seen a picture of the mailer and was unable to find any disclaimer or indication of who paid for and created it. Although the content is accurate, I am suspicious of the intentions of the sender and believe it may violate election laws.”
LPIN officials also disavowed any knowledge or participation in the mailers.
Mailers are also not a standard part of Libertarian campaigns, which tend to focus on lower cost communications channels.
Different tone, different source?
Besides the lack of disclaimer, the recent mailers also differ from the first examples in tone. The first mailers compared Brenton and Braun head-to-head. The more recent mailers are much more a direct attack on Braun.
The disclaimer-free mailers also invite the recipients to voice their discontent with Braun much more directly, prominently printing his campaign office phone number and inviting upset Hoosiers to “Call Tax-Hike Mike” and “tell him to stop raising our taxes.”
The different tone may indicate that the new mailers not coming from the Democrats or or a Democrat-aligned organization. Perhaps they come from a voter who genuinely feels betrayed by Braun’s record on tax, and prefers Brenton’s message.
Either way, the FEC violation remains. And the bafflement from all corners of Indiana politics grows.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this post contained a theory about the prepaid postage permit used for the mailers. Since publication News Growl have discovered several organizations using the same Milwaukee permit number (perhaps not at the same time). Because of substantial doubts about this original section, it has been removed.