June 16, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Who paid for Rep. Hoyle’s slick campaign mailer? The taxpayers

5 min read
The ubiquitous softly rounded logo, the flawless graphics: dark gray, golden yellow and deep blue colors swirled in a tight yet unbounded configuration of mountains and water. The words float as if by magic and yet are integral to the whole. So artful. So effective.  But what’s the point?  Campaigning for re-election, of course.

by Sandra Bishop

When is a piece of campaign literature not campaign literature? When it’s paid for with public funds.

Case in point: This morning in our home mail box we received an 11-by-12-inch full-color glossy heavy paper cardstock double-sided mailer with multiple photos of Congresswoman Val Hoyle and the tag line, “Here To Serve You.”  

It was obviously just another piece of campaign literature, albeit a little early for the May primary campaigning season. It was only while writing the “date received” that it became apparent that it was not what it seemed.

The photos range from a classic campaign head and shoulders shot of Hoyle with American flag in the background, to her in military-looking gear accompanied by a man in what appears to be a military flight uniform. Another photo shows the Congresswoman on a boat wearing a day-glow orange life vest. She is standing next to a woman in uniform who is piloting the boat. The female pilot’s uniform is mostly obscured and the insignia artfully hidden by the corner of a photo superimposed over this one.

Another profoundly suggestive campaign-ish feature of this layout is a classic backdrop photo of the city of Eugene. The skyline is dominated by the familiar view of Spencer Butte when looking south from the top of Skinner Butte. The iconic photo is altered to show a dark bluish purple sky bleeding seamlessly into the background of the Hoyle headshot with American flag. The blue matches the background of the flag perfectly. And of course the predominant color would be blue – she is a Democrat. We can’t forget that.

There is no red on this mailer except a couple of faded stripes in the American flag blurred in the background behind Hoyle’s smiling face. Impressive. These graphics are good. No doubt about that. The graphic presentation, the subtle psychological invocations; all perfect. And that’s only the front side of this gigantic mailer.

The final element on the front of this gigantic mailer is the “2023 Year In Review” list with check marks in front of seven lines of text with statistics ranging from “420 [Oh my, I almost missed that one!] “420 constituents given assistance with a federal agency” to “$807,939,352 in grant benefits returned to the district.” This list of mythical seven comes complete with check marks in circles all evocative of voting, elections and ballots. So subtle, or not.  

And, of course, there is the ubiquitous softly rounded logo: “Congresswoman Val Hoyle Serving Oregon’s 4th District.” The same flawless graphics: dark gray, golden yellow and deep blue colors swirled in a tight yet unbounded configuration of mountains and water. The words float as if by magic and yet are integral to the whole. So artful. So effective.  But what’s the point?  Campaigning for re-election, of course.

How can anyone think that this is acceptable use of public money? Or maybe the U.S. House of Representatives has a pot of money from some source other than taxpayers that can be used for near-campaign-brinksmanship such as this mailer.

On the face of it this is a campaign mailer. It is clear and simple. Hoyle’s name will be on the ballot in the May 2024 Democratic primary.

Another interesting aspect of this mailer is the form of address. The Bishop Household or Current Resident is the nomenclature used in the address. In my experience the “fill-in-the-blank Household” form of address is used on voter registration lists. So the question becomes who obtained the voter registration list? Or, what other source was used for these addresses? How were the names and addresses obtained?

Who paid for the staff time to assemble this piece, or was it simply forwarded from the campaign staff to the congressional office to be mailed? Oh, of course not. Who would be that sloppy? It is certain that everything was done within the letter of the law. Maybe.

But there are so many questions. What was the cost for this mailer? How ubiquitous was this mailer? Was it mailed only to traditional liberals, active voters who are registered Democrats? Did it go to all households in her district? Or was it mailed only to registered voters?

This is an outrageous and audacious misuse of public money. If the Congresswoman wanted a voter, I mean constituent, to know all the great services her office offers to provide she could mail a small post card with the direct number to reach her office. Oh, that reminds me. The telephone number for the Washington, DC office is “an inoperable number.” 

And, why would anyone suspect that this quasi-official mailer was done by campaign workers?  I do wonder why the number listed for the Washington D.C. office is not a functioning number. Yes, as soon as I got this fanciful piece of campaign propaganda disguised as constituent mail I called the Congresswoman’s Eugene office and the Washington, D.C. office to lodge a complaint. I was able to leave a recorded “opinion” message at the Eugene office number. The recording on the DC office clearly stated “You have reached a non-working number at the U.S. House of Representatives. T3B.”  

Now, would a staffer in a congressional office send out a constituent mailer with the wrong phone number? Well, I’m thinking about that.

Oh, and one last thing. If the Congresswoman wants her constituents to contact her office for help, why would there not be an email address, website, or any way other than a telephone number to reach her office? Oh, but wait—there is a QR code, “Scan Here To Subscribe.”  Sorry, not going down that rabbit hole. I receive enough campaign solicitations without signing up for more, even those in disguise.

Whew. It’s difficult to describe such pristine graphics and layout. Just look at the snapshots of this masterpiece. I do wish somebody would send me the contact info for the graphic artist. Other campaigns could use a good graphic designer. Promise I won’t tell anyone where I got it.

Sandra U. Bishop is a writer and researcher who lives in Eugene and has observed politics from many angles for a very long time. 

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