So-called “voter shaming” mailers similar to the ones that the Ted Cruz presidential campaign used in Iowa are being sent to voters in New Hampshire.
But these particular letters, which registered Republicans began receiving in the mail on Monday, do not appear to be linked to the Texas senator. Instead, they originated with a mysterious group called Public Policy Matters which a Daily Caller investigation shows has Florida Sen. Marco Rubio‘s campaign as a client.
It is not yet clear that the Rubio campaign or a group supporting the 44-year-old candidate is behind the mailers. Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky LLC (HVJT), the Warrenton, Va. campaign finance law firm linked to Public Policy Matters, also counts as its clients the Republican National Committee, Karl Rove’s super PAC American Crossroads, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
But save for some work for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s super PAC, HVJT’s only direct relationship with a client running for the Republican nomination is Rubio. His campaign declined to comment before press time but offered to provide comment on Tuesday morning, after voting in New Hampshire will have started. TheDC will update with any comment that the Rubio campaign provides.
[Update: Alex Conant, Rubio’s communications director, responded to TheDC Tuesday afternoon with the following statement: “I can definitively say that the mailer didn’t come from the campaign and the campaign had nothing to do with it either directly or indirectly.”]
The website LawNewz first reported the New Hampshire mailers, which are sent in an envelope which reads “Important Taxpayer Information Enclosed.”
But rather than tax documents, the envelope contains a letter which provides recipients with their voting histories and those of their neighbors. A writer at the website Ricochet named Max Ledoux received one of the mailers and confirmed that some of the names listed on it are his neighbors. Others, he wrote, were from nearby towns.
The mailers are intended to shame voters into showing up to the polls to avoid embarrassment among their neighbors.
“You and your friends, your neighbors, and other people you know will all know who voted and who did not vote,” the mailers warn.
— Marc Nozell (@MarcNo) February 8, 2016
The use of such literature became a source of controversy during the Iowa caucuses when Cruz’s campaign sent them out to voters. Cruz’s mailers, which came directly from his campaign, were more aggressive than the ones circulating in New Hampshire. Iowans received letters that read “Voting Violation” and attributed grades to voters based on their voting history.
Rubio, among other candidates, criticized Cruz for the tactic.
“They were upset about it, obviously,” he said just before the caucuses. “They had people’s names and they gave them an ‘F’ rating for how they voted. I think a lot of voters are disturbed by it.”
Cruz ended up winning the caucuses, while Rubio finished in third place, though with a higher vote share than polls predicted. Rubio is currently second in New Hampshire, according to a WMUR/CNN poll. With 17 percent in that survey, he trails billionaire Donald Trump, who has 31 percent support. Cruz received 14 percent in the poll.
Though the use of mailers like the ones landing in New Hampshire mailboxes is controversial — and unethical, some argue — studies have shown that they are often effective in driving voters to the polls. And as The Huffington Post reported, the language used in the new mailers is similar to that used in a 2008 study on the effectiveness of the tactic.
Little information about Public Policy Matters exists in the public domain. The address on the envelopes is a New Hampshire post office box which does not trace back to an individual or organization. The New Hampshire secretary of state tells TheDC that the mailers have been referred to the state’s attorney general.
— Chris Crawford (@CrawfordStuff) February 8, 2016
But records maintained by the Virginia State Corporation Commission do show that a group called Public Policy Matters, which was formed on Aug. 24, shares an address with HVJT, whose lead partner is Jill Holtzman Vogel, who served as chief counsel to the RNC in 2004 and is currently a Virginia state senator.
Rubio’s presidential campaign, his Senate campaign, and a super PAC supporting him have paid the firm tens of thousands of dollars over the years for “legal fees,” according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission. Rubio’s presidential campaign has paid HVJT more than $70,000. The pro-Rubio Reclaim America PAC has paid the firm more than $28,000.
HVJT has been noted for its use of secretive political committees to further a variety of political causes, including political campaigns and conservative special interest groups. Politico noted its efforts last month to lobby against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The firm “specializes in untraceable pressure groups for conservative causes and whose clients include Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee,” Politico reported.
Campaign finance records filed last year show that Rove’s American Crossroads paid HVJT $90,858.
Requests for comment sent to partners at the law firm were not returned.
There are some links between Public Policy Matters and a super PAC supporting the Cruz campaign that bear worth mentioning, though both the Cruz campaign and the treasurer of the super PAC deny having anything to do with the New Hampshire mailers.
HVJT also shares an address with North Rock Reports LLC, the campaign finance compliance company that serves as the registered agent for Public Policy matters. North Rock Reports is listed as the registered agent for a company called Digital Freedom LLC which the pro-Cruz super PAC Stand For Truth paid for digital ads in New Hampshire.
But Stand for Truth’s treasurer, Eric Lycan, tells TheDC that the PAC is not behind the mailers.“Stand For Truth is not involved in any mailers in NH and has no connection with [North Rock Reports and Public Policy Matters],” he said. Rick Tyler, Cruz’s communications director, told The Huffington Post that the campaign is not affiliated with the letters.
If groups associated with Rubio are behind the New Hampshire mailer, it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve been as part of the effort to put him in the White House.
Rubio’s campaign sent similar notices to voters in Iowa in order to shame voters to the polls. After Rubio criticized Cruz for using the mailers, Tyler pointed out that Rubio had used similar tactics.
— Rick Tyler (@rickwtyler) January 31, 2016
This post has been updated with additional information.