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Sun., Oct. 4
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A tale of two fliers


The American Action Network, a 501(c)4 organization that has an outpost in Watertown, is handing out the two attached fliers (back and front) to educate and persuade north country residents.
They're starkly different. One flier educates, and the other persuades. It's a product of the new laws governing campaign finance in the United States.
501(c)4 organizations like the American Action Network don't have to disclose their donors. (The AAN was founded by former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota.) Here's a story I did a few weeks ago about the AAN.
The group can do a little bit of politicking, but their man focus must be educational.
That's how we get these two different messages.
The first one doesn't attack Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, nor does it mention Republican Matt Doheny, his opponent on Tuesday. It merely says, ask Mr. Owens to keep taxes low. And it says, "It's the tax increases we have to fear. Spending cuts won't hurt the economy," citing a Wall Street Journal editorial. Mr. Owens does not share that view.
That's the educational flier — issue advocacy — and that's what keeps the organization aligned with federal tax and campaign rules.
The person who gave me the flier said that someone came to his door and wouldn't easily be brushed off. The canvasser allegedly said, "Bill Owens is allowing me to be here" when the local voter said he wasn't particularly interested in the flier.
We can only assume that the canvasser meant, "Bill Owens is not literally physically restraining me from being here." Which was, I suppose, technically true. But the very cleverly worded sentence suggests that Mr. Owens is asking him to be there.
Brook Hougesen, a spokeswoman for the American Action Network, said in an email: "I'm not going to speculate over a supposed conversation."
The second flier, meanwhile, is an "independent expenditure," or express political advocacy. You can tell by all the checkmarks beneah to Mr. Doheny's picture, and the X-marks beneath to Mr. Owens'.
"GO VOTE," the flier instructs. The less-than-subtle message: Go vote for Mr. Doheny.
(A quick note: The Doheny campaign can't and doesn't coordinate with the American Action Network.)

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