One of the candidates who was on the slate and beat Cowlishaw was a local congressman’s 21-year-old daughter. “I’m not as well known as Briana Bilbray,” Cowlishaw says with a laugh.
I ask Laura Sumrall how the slate mailers originate. Industrious individuals get together and make big money from them, she tells me. “They will make up a name, file with the state, and get a code so they can do a mailer according to the rules. It’s kind of like having a time-share. People can buy in. You get a bunch of people to pay; then you do the mailer and make all the money. When a slate mailer goes out, the candidates and proposition proponents usually have all paid to be on it. Nobody is really endorsed by the party. That’s really the scam of it all. It’s all legal, but voters will get these slate mailers with the elephant on it and think, ‘Oh, this is the Republican Party endorsing these people.’ No, it’s somebody who put it together and charged people money and mailed it out. Suppose you’re a congressional candidate. They might charge you $1000 to be on the mailer; if you want to be an assemblyman, maybe $400 or $500, and, say, $100 for the lowly people.”
But things happened a bit differently with the recent mailers. Printed at their bottom, a note stated that an asterisk next to the names of the candidates meant the candidate had paid to be on the slate. All the candidates for the Republican Central Committee had the asterisks. But Sumrall says she didn’t pay a dime to appear on any slate. “So I called the number on the mailer that had my name, and I got a recording,” she says. “It did not identify a business. It just said to leave my name and number, which I did. I also asked why I was on the slate and who paid for it. Nobody ever returned my call, though I called twice.”
Records at the office of the San Diego County Registrar of Voters suggest what happened. Between January 1 and May 17, an organization called Citizens for a Better San Diego County took $18,300 in contributions, including $8300 from Atlas Hotels and $5000 from Thomas Sudberry. (Sudberry is currently petitioning the City of San Diego to build Quarry Falls, a massive condominium development in Mission Valley.) Citizens for a Better San Diego County, whose treasurer is Seventh District candidate for San Diego City Council April Boling, then made payments to five groups for “slate mailers to support SD Co Republican Central Committee candidates.” Family, Faith and Freedom Association and California Taxpayer Protection Voter Guide each received $2500. Citizens for Good Government received $2100, California Voter Guide, $2875, and Official Non-Partisan Voter Guide, $3000.