Archive for Thursday, April 28, 2005

Election postcard still being investigated

April 28, 2005


Douglas County Dist. Atty. Charles Branson says he wants to conduct a legal review of an anonymous campaign postcard that targeted City Commissioner David Schauner.

But Branson said his office would not launch its own investigation into the spurious postcard, which attempted to link Schauner to domestic abuse. Instead, Branson said he would rely on outside investigators to give his office evidence about the postcards, which voters received just days before the April 5 general election.

"I would think that there has been enough uproar on this that hopefully we would have the chance to review it at some time," Branson said.

The only known investigation into the matter is under way by the U.S. Postal Service. Both the Douglas County Sheriff's Department and the Lawrence Police Department confirmed they had not been asked to investigate the matter.

Branson said the Postal Service investigation, depending on what it discovers, could be turned over to his office for review or could be put in the hands of federal prosecutors.

John Salanitro, a postal inspector in Kansas City, declined to comment on the investigation other than to say it was limited to looking at postal financial matters. There has been suspicion that proper permits were not filed for the postcards to be mailed using the Postal Services bulk mailing rates.

"The information in those mailings that may have been erroneous is not something we can control," Salanitro said. "That is more of a First Amendment issue that I think would be more likely to be dealt with in a civil court."

Schauner, who has denied any allegations of domestic abuse, said he had not decided whether he would pursue a civil case related to the mailer. He also said he had not asked any law enforcement agency to investigate the postcard to determine if any laws had been broken.

"But that might be something I talk to the district attorney about," Schauner said.

No one has been definitely identified as the mailer of the postcard. But two Lawrence printers have said area plumber and frequent Schauner critic Mike Capra came to their businesses seeking to have a political mailer printed that had the same language as the one voters ultimately received in the mail.

Capra has denied that he printed the card.

A second postcard that surfaced in the Schauner race continues to be questioned. Last week, the Kansas Ethics Commission ruled that a postcard mailed by Teachers for a Better Lawrence had crossed the line into candidate advocacy, and that the group was required to register as a political action committee. The commission has given the group until May 2 to file a report detailing where it received its finances to mail the postcard. Capra, in a previous interview with the Journal-World, said he was an organizer of the Teachers for a Better Lawrence group.

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