Boston Globe Today
AG: Voter warning linked to GOP campaign, October 19, 2006
SANTA ANA, Calif. –State investigators have linked a Republican campaign to letters sent to thousands of Southern California Hispanics warning them they could go to jail or be deported if they vote next month, a spokesman for the attorney general said.
“We have identified where we believe the mailing list was obtained,” said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
He declined to identify the specific Republican campaign Wednesday, citing the ongoing investigation. The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register both reported Thursday that the investigation appeared to be focused on the campaign of Tan D. Nguyen, a Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez.
The letter, written in Spanish, tells recipients: “You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time.”
In fact, immigrants who are naturalized U.S. citizens can vote.
Complaints about the letters this week prompted state and federal investigations, and Barankin said investigators had been questioning people in Orange County.
The two newspapers reported state investigators had found the location where the letters were printed and mailed to an estimated 14,000 Democratic voters in central Orange County. The Los Angeles Times, citing an unnamed source, said authorities had interviewed Nguyen at his office.
Nguyen did not return messages left by The Associated Press or either newspaper. Sanchez also did not return messages seeking comment.
The owner of Huntington Beach-based Mailing Pros, Christopher West, told The Orange County Register that he didn’t know any laws were being broken when the mailer was sent. He said he gave investigators the name of the person who hired him to do the mailings but declined to provide that the name to the newspaper.
“I’m the one that processed it, and I don’t read Spanish,” West said. “Until the investigator read it to me, I didn’t know the content.”
Scott Baugh, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, condemned the letter as “an obnoxious, grotesque piece of work.”
“Regardless of who did it — Republican or Democrat — if it’s a crime, then whoever did it should be prosecuted,” Baugh said.
A group of six Vietnamese-American political candidates running for offices in Orange County issued a joint statement saying: “The content of this mailer is offensive to the immigrant voters, regardless of their ethnicity.”
The note’s letterhead resembles that of an anti-illegal immigration group, California Coalition for Immigration Reform, but group leader Barbara Coe said she told investigators for the attorney general’s office Wednesday that her group didn’t authorize the letter and she didn’t know who sent it.
“The letterhead was altered and I’ve never head of any Sergio Ramirez,” the name signed to the letter, Coe said.
Numerous political leaders including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have denounced the letter and called for the investigations.
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