Campaign mailers from state Rep. Gary Pendleton of Raleigh look a lot like letters from his legislative office.
There’s the official state seal at the top of the letter. The return address on the envelope and letter says “North Carolina General Assembly House of Representatives.”
Voters have to look at the fine print to see the source of the mailer: “Paid for by Pendleton for N.C. House Committee.”
Pendleton defends his decision to use the state seal instead of his campaign logo, which features his last name and a large red check mark.
“That is my campaign letterhead,” he said. “I used the same thing last time I ran. On the envelope and on the letter, it says ‘not printed at government expense.’”
The Legislative Ethics Committee, which consists of legislators who issue opinions on ethical questions, is OK with the practice.
The committee determined that legislators can’t use government-funded stationary for campaign purposes, but they can use a “facsimile” of the stationary as long as it “bears a clear disclaimer that it was not printed or mailed at state expense.”
Still, Pendleton’s mailer is drawing fire from his Democratic opponent, Cynthia Ball. “Just like his support of HB2, voters have to look at the fine print to find the truth when it comes to my opponent,” she said. “It's shameful that Rep. Pendleton is deliberately misleading voters about his record on HB2.”
Pendleton, a Republican seeking re-election, is sending the letters to voters who request absentee ballots. His campaign is using an online database of absentee ballot requests and the addresses where the ballots are being sent. Pendleton promotes his legislative record in the letter, saying he did not vote for HB2 (the letter doesn’t mention that he also didn’t vote against it – he skipped the special session).
“My opponent is saying I hate public schools, and that we’ve cut school spending, and you have to clarify these things,” Pendleton told The N&O.
He says he’s been reaching out to absentee voters since he sought advice from a political consultant after narrowing losing a bid for Wake County commissioner. “He told me ‘write to the absentees, they’re definitely going to vote,’” Pendleton said.