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Prop. 51 Backers Call Mailing ‘a Fraud’

Times Staff Writer

The campaign firm promoting Proposition 51, the “deep-pockets” initiative on Tuesday’s ballot, sent out a special mailing to “more than 150,000" Republican homes Friday debunking a massive slate mailing against the initiative as “phony” and a “fraud.”

“Beware of this phony slate card,” said the new mailing, which also contained endorsements of the initiative from Gov. George Deukmejian and Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) in what pro-51 coordinator Jack McDowell described as a quick effort to partially counteract the effects of the earlier mailing, which went out this week to a reported 2 million households.

On the earlier mailing, a number of Republican candidates, including Deukmejian, appear with voter check marks next to their names, and also checked at the end of the list is “No on Proposition 51.” The mailer has nothing to do with the official Republican Party position.

‘Did as Much as We Could’

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To offset its possible effect, McDowell said, “We did as much as we could do in the little time that we had (before Tuesday’s election).”

The initiative, if passed, would limit liability for non-economic damages such as “pain and suffering” to a defendant’s degree of blame in lawsuits that involve more than one defendant. It is most often supported by insurance companies, medical groups, businessmen and local and state government officials, and is opposed by most plaintiffs’ lawyers.

As the controversy over the slate mailing continued, a Republican state senator from Orange County, Edward R. Royce, asked Orange County Dist. Atty. Cecil Hicks to investigate to determine whether Republic Media Group, the firm that sent the mailing, was in violation of the state’s Truth in Endorsement law directed against deceptive political pieces.

Simply Bought Space

At the same time, the directors of the main firm opposing the initiative, Michael Berman and Carl D’Agostino, said they had simply bought space in the mailing to advertise opposition to Proposition 51 and to have the “no” position included on the slate of candidates and propositions. They pointed out that Michael Mercier of Republic Media, who put the mailing together, and Jim Corey of Pacific Ad Mail, who printed it, had first offered to sell space to the pro-51 campaign but were rejected.

“We don’t even know these guys,” D’Agostino said of Mercier and Corey.

Mercier’s attorney, Joe Remcho, said Republic Media had been “very careful that it complied with state and federal laws” when it put together the mailing, and he said that, statewide, about 90 Republican candidates had actually paid to have their names included on it.

‘Defamatory and Libelous’

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Remcho charged that the pro-51 campaign’s new mailing is “false, defamatory and libelous” when it accuses the Mercier mailing of being phony and a fraud.

As the expensive Proposition 51 campaign wound toward a close--almost $10 million has been raised so far--it was obvious from the final television and radio spots that both sides were concerned that the other’s main arguments as expressed in commercials thus far might be having an impact. On both sides, the final spots sought to counteract the opposition’s points.

Berman and D’Agostino, in what they said will be their final 30-second television commercial, have actor Eddie Albert saying in part:

“The bureaucrats behind Proposition 51 claim it’s about deep pockets and taxes. They even made the ballot say 51 will save money, but it’s a fraud. Bureaucrats aren’t pushing 51 to save you money. They’re pushing 51 so they won’t have to do the job we pay them to do, like keeping our drinking water safe from toxins. . . .”

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Radio Spot by Honig

The firm of Richard Woodward and Jack McDowell, the pro-51 campaigners, have Bill Honig, the state superintendent of public instruction, appearing in a 60-second radio spot this weekend. Honig declares, in part:

“Proposition 51 is simple and fair. Prop. 51 has nothing to do with murderers or rapists, nothing to do with drunk drivers who kill. And Prop. 51 definitely has nothing to do with letting the guilty go free. If corporate wrongdoers and toxic polluters are guilty, they’ll pay! Don’t let the trial lawyers trick you into voting against 51. . . . Prop. 51 will save taxpayers millions of dollars and protect our cities, counties and school districts from unfair lawsuits. . . .”


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