Massachusetts residents, especially those with strong voting records, are seeing their mailboxes besieged by doctored photos of Senator Scott Brown posing by a truck full of cash, Elizabeth Warren angrily guarding a locked door, and a host of other incendiary images, as the Senate campaign enters the homestretch.
With the race now in its final month, the direct mail efforts have expanded as outside groups seek to influence the competitive election with millions of dollars in spending.
That includes at least $1.5 million on direct mail alone spent since September. Additional money has been spent on phone calls and door-to-door organizing, as well as on mail sent directly from the candidates, political parties, and from unions and business organizations to their members.
The mailbox is one of the few options for many of the political action committees and super PACs, because the campaigns agreed in January on a system of self-imposed penalties designed to prevent such groups from spending money to buy television, radio, and Internet ads on the candidates’ behalf. But the agreement does not penalize direct mail and grass-roots organizing.
Even as snail mail seems to be going the way of the flip phone, political postcards, especially those that attack, have remained a staple of the campaign sphere.
Many voters, however, say they don’t bother reading the splashy fliers.
“I hate getting that mail,” said Pam Richard, a 54-year-old marketing director from North Reading who said she is not registered in a political party. “It goes in the recycling bin with all the junk mail.”
“I hate getting that mail. It goes in the recycling bin with all the junk mail.”Pam Richard
Voters may resent it, but political groups continue to believe it is effective.
One of the newest entries into the race, but certainly not the only group, is America 360, which is backed primarily by a $500,000 donation from Oxbow Carbon, controlled by William Koch. Koch, of Osterville and West Palm Beach, Fla., is not as well known as his politically active brothers, Charles and David, nor does he act in concert with them. He spent heavily on opposition efforts to the Cape Wind energy project, and has also donated $3 million to Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
Federal records show America 360 has spent about $280,000 so far on mail supporting Brown.
A spokesman for Koch, Brad Goldstein, said the contribution is not related to Koch’s opposition to Cape Wind.
“He thinks Scott Brown is much more favorable to business,” Goldstein said. “He certainly feels that Scott Brown will not overregulate business into another depression.”
Alicia Preston, who worked on Brown’s 2010 special election campaign and is now speaking for Americans 360, said it’s a matter of leveling the playing field for Brown. Preston said the group began sending out its third direct mail piece Thursday, targeting Warren’s legal work on a complicated case involving asbestos victims.
One left-leaning group, the League of Conservation Voters, which has been targeting Brown for more than a year and has spent about $1 million on the race, announced last week that it would spend $200,000 on direct mail, largely attacking Brown.
The group had previously launched television ads against Brown, before the pledge between the candidates took effect.
“It’s fair to say that voters are being bombarded,” said Jeff Gohringer, a spokesman for the group. “But we think that when they see the 278 times that Scott Brown has voted to block the president’s agenda, that’s going to stand out.”
Emily’s List, a liberal group that supports female candidates who favor legalized abortion, has spent about $260,000 on direct mail through its Women Vote! group since Oct. 4, according to federal records.
Labor unions are also sending out mailings to their members, which do not have to be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission.
Rethink Brown, a super PAC backed by the Service Employees International Union and the Massachusetts Teachers Association, plans to spend $180,000 to send fliers to 324,000 households next week, the first of many mailings supporting Warren, according to spokesman Steve Crawford, one of several state Democratic Party insiders involved in the group.
On the right, Americans 360 is joined by Crossroads GPS, a group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove, which has spent about $56,000 on automated calls and $173,000 on direct mail, according to records. Americans for Tax Reform, affiliated with antitax activist Grover G. Norquist, has spent about $440,000 on mail.
Michael R. Bloomberg, the New York mayor and a political independent who supports Brown, is starting a super PAC to support candidates around the country this week. An aide tapped to run the group, Howard Wolfson, said in an e-mail Wednesday that Bloomberg would not be spending money on the Massachusetts race.
It is uncertain how much the candidates’ pledge to prevent PACs from spending on television, radio, and Internet ads is increasing the volume of direct mail.
Some groups are spending similar amounts on mail in other races around the country.
The League of Conservation Voters, for example, announced an $800,000 direct mail campaign in the Virginia Senate race last month.
But others, such as Rethink Brown, say they would have devoted less money to direct mail had other channels been available.
Warren, in a statement, criticized the groups opposing her, without mentioning that there are also groups sending mail on her behalf.
“Now, you only have to check your mail to see that Scott Brown stands with Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, and the Koch Brothers,” spokeswoman Julie Edwards said.
Brown said Tuesday that he was proud he and Warren signed the mutual pledge to keep such groups off the airwaves. But he reiterated that direct mail is not affected by the pledge.
“I’m aware, as she is, that there are groups out there doing the things that they are allowed to do under” the pact, he said. “I’m very thankful for what we did and certainly we’ll have the resources to get our own messages out.”Noah Bierman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the teachers association behind the Rethink Brown super PAC. The Massachusetts Teachers Association is backing the super PAC.