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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
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Nassau Voters Must Demand Clean Campaigns

To get better public officials, we need better candidates. To get better candidates, we need to walk right up to them and tell them to clean up their acts.

Let’s start with the smallest thing there is in a political campaign. Literally.

Unless you know to look for it, you may not know about union labels on printed political materials, including brochures, signs and buttons. It’s a small graphic (often called a “bug”) that indicates that the material was printed by a “union shop,” meaning a printing operation that upholds certain labor standards. For example, political campaigns frequently require last-minute printing and a union bug means that the people who were running the machines at 2 a.m. got paid overtime. For Democratic candidates, especially those claiming to be supportive of working families, some voters simply expect a bug to be present on any “big ticket” mailers.

There are scores of fine printers on Long Island (especially small, family-owned businesses) who aren’t unionized, and that’s perfectly okay.

Dozens of campaign materials have been distributed by Democratic candidates in ths county with a symbol that is very small, very blurry and lacks any shop registration number. It gives every impression of a counterfeit union label. The exact same blurry graphic appears on the literature of a bunch of candidates and even, in one case, taxpayer-supported mail from a local government.

It’s one thing to not have a union bug. It’s a whole other thing to fake it. Counterfeiting union labels is a misdemeanor in some states.

A few years ago, when a counterfeiting charge was made in a high-profile Wisconsin State Senate campaign, a candidate produced the proprietor of a union print shop who took responsibility for the illegible graphic, blaming “new graphic designers.” Maybe that’s what’s happening.

I suppose it is possible, given how cynical and dismissive our politics have become regarding labor, that all these materials have been produced over all these months, and nobody called up their consultant, designer, print broker or printer to ask, “Dude, where’s my bug?” Maybe they just don’t care. Maybe you should ask.

And we need to head off a potential mudfest coming from the other side.

Three years ago, this space outed a “push poll” aimed at Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. A push poll sounds at first like a legitimate opinion survey, but actually is designed to plant misinformation, innuendo and outright lies in the minds of voters. Respected pollsters consider this to be the lowest, bottom-feeder activity, partly because it turns off voters to sitting through legitimate surveys. That 2010 poll was conducted by “Central Research.” This shadowy company has a legal address in New York City and uses Florida-based phone banks. Their work has been exposed in more than a dozen states, aimed at Democratics and at some Republicans in party primaries. Only a few weeks ago, their push polling against the Democratic candidate for Orange County Executive (Catskill region) became a public issue.

And now they are back in Nassau County.

Central Research, Florida phone bank and all, have been calling into North Hempstead households with a scientifically flawed poll regarding the elections for Supervisor and Town Clerk. While the “push” seemed fairly mild, it may have been a test of the waters in low-profile “downballot” campaigns. CR may well show up in other towns and possibly in county races.

It is possible that in both of these cases, labels and polls, individual candidates are being victimized by their own short-sighted party organizations. Perhaps they don’t even know, making it even more important that voters of good faith get in candidates’ faces and tell them to fix it or get lost.

Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: millercolumn@optimum.net