Campaign mailer is a mystery

Candidate says he didn't OK it

Staff WriterOctober 31, 2009 

An unregistered political action committee has mailed out a postcard promoting Town Council member Mark Kleinschmidt for mayor and painting rival Matt Czajkowski as a "divisive leader ... out of sync with the progressive values Chapel Hill has worked hard to protect."

Kleinschmidt said he did not authorize the postcard, which violated state law by failing to state that he had not endorsed it, according to Orange County Board of Elections Director Tracy Reams.

Kleinschmidt said he doesn't know who sent it.

"I have not authorized, and I would not authorize something like this," he said. "It doesn't approach the campaign the way that I would."

Kleinschmidt said he has tried to highlight his leadership and consensus-building abilities, rather than attack his opponent.

Czajkowski also said he did not know who sent the postcards.

The postcard questions Czajkowski's environmentalism, concern for town employees and consensus-building skills. But he said he sees his challenging the status quo and calling for a smoother development-review process and scaled-back employee health benefits as practical efforts to lower taxes and improve the town.

Czajkowski questioned PAC funding being injected into a campaign where Kleinschmidt is already receiving taxpayer money.

"It is so insidious," he said. "They're not doing anything that doesn't get done regularly in campaigns, but under the mantle of so-called clean campaigning."

If the mailing had been coordinated with Kleinschmidt and cost more than $20, it would also have violated the rules of Chapel Hill's public financing program. In exchange for fundraising limits, including a $20 cap for individual donors, Kleinschmidt has received an initial $9,000 in taxpayer funding, plus another $4,000 because Czajkowski has raised more than $21,000.

The postcard says "CHC, PAC" paid for the mailing, but Reams has no record of such an organization registering as a political action committee in Orange County, another violation. Reams said it would be up to the State Board of Elections to investigate any violations.

Czajkowski took issue with another mailing, this one from Kleinschmidt's campaign with a letter from Mayor Kevin Foy endorsing Kleinschmidt.

"Those cost big bucks, and Mark has the money to do it, thanks to voter-owned elections," Czajkowski said. "This is all being done with taxpayer money."

Czajkowski said some residents believe Foy and Kleinschmidt conspired with former Town Councilman Bill Strom to time Strom's resignation until after his seat could be filled by Tuesday's ballot. Both men deny this, but because Strom resigned after the election filing deadline, the council has to appoint a successor.

"Where there is a perception that the democratic process somehow has been in any way impeded, we need to go further than telling people there isn't a problem," said Czajkowski, who on that basis has fought to delay the appointment until after the new council is seated in December.

Czajkowski lamented the conspiracy theory, the PAC mailing, Foy's endorsement and an Orange County Democratic Party voter drive when Kleinschmidt is the only Democrat in the nonpartisan mayor's race.

"How do you put a value on the resources of the Orange County Democratic Party?" said Czajkowski, an unaffiliated voter. "This is all supposed to be how Chapel Hill leads when it comes to democracy?"

jesse.deconto@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8760

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