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Local Activist Apologizes for Election Mailers

Local activist Charles Mann apologizes for false claims made by his political action committee set up to attack City Council candidates three days after the candidates lost the election.

A local activist who sent mailers attacking two city council candidates during the election apologized to the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce Friday for false statements contained in them.

Charles Mann’s political action committee sent out mailers in October attacking two candidates and their ties to the chamber. Today, three days after the candidates were defeated in the election, Mann issued an official apology for the misleading mailers.

The Chamber demanded an apology Monday from Charles Mann's political action committee set up to attack two city council candidates.

"I hereby acknowledge that the statements regarding the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce in two political advertisements that Watchdog distributed are false," Mann said in a letter to the Chamber. "I apologize to the Chamber, its members and its directors for any suggestion that anyone associated with the Chamber had engaged in any misconduct."

The PAC, called Watchdog for San Clemente Responsible Government -- a Committee Formed to Oppose Jim Dahl and Mike Mortenson for City Council 2012, attacked. Jim Dahl and Mike Mortenson. Ultimately, both candidates lost the election.

The Chamber accused Mann and his wife Jeri Mann's PAC of deliberately accusing the organization of illegal activity in two mailers sent out last week.

"PAC spent $4,000 on [Mortenson's] campaign. SC Taxpayers funded it," reads one of the mailers.

"By stating that 'SC Taxpayers funded it,' Defendants... knowingly and intentionally accused the Chamber of engaging in criminal activity, which Defendants know is not true," reads the draft lawsuit, which attorneys threatened to file if the Manns didn't release an immediate statement apologizing to the chamber and recanting the accusations in the mailers.

"Moreover, when Defendants allege that the Chamber has engaged in criminal activities, Defendants also, at least implicitly, allege that the Chamber's board members, and their associated businesses, are at least complicit with this conduct. Defendants know this is not true, but simply do not care," the lawsuit states.

The mailers also state Jim Dahl voted to give the chamber $400,000 from the city and that the Chamber-associated PAC spent $23,000 on his campaign.

"That's a kickback," reads the letter. 

The Chamber’s draft lawsuit calls this another example of defamation. The city contracts with the organization for printed materials and certain services, and the Chamber-associated PAC is funded by private donations from its members, not tax money.

"This lie that any public funds went to the Chamber's PAC is even more troubling because at no time has any public funds been given to the PAC," the suit states. "Defendants just made this up, once again, to advance their own political agenda, regardless of the harm it has caused the Chamber."

Moonshine November 10, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Shameful. It's too bad he didn't admit to the myriad of other lies in his attack mailers. Maybe if someone else threatens to sue him he will. Nothing says "Residents First" like lying to residents to influence their vote.
Tom Barnes November 10, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Who is going to apologize to Bob Baker for all the election material that falsely accused him of being against Courtney's Sandcastle? Is there a double standard here?
Moonshine November 10, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Tom- Baker voted no on the bathrooms, that is true, and that is what many people including myself posted on blogs like this. No apologies necessary. You are comparing apples to oranges. I personally even pointed out in many instances- Baker's reasoning- that it was too expensive. The fact is it was still a NO vote. period. What Charles Mann did was LIE to uninformed voters in an effort to influence their vote- something Baker warned residents of on his own website. No double standard- plain and simple actually- $$ and lies won over the (uninformed) residents. Convenient for Mann that he didn't "realize" and acknowledge the statements in his mailers were indeed false until after the election...
Larry Corwin November 10, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Its a shame the wording wasn't more carefully crafted. The structural differences between the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber's PAC activities are subtle but defined. The law that enables organizations to set up PAC's for the purpose of separation from core activities can be debated endlessly but for todays discussion, the law allows for this separation. The facts are clear that the Chamber does receive support from the City (via taxpayers) in subsidized rents, printed materials and other forms. However to connect this monetary support to the PAC expenditures is false and the term "kickback" does suggest unlawful activity which again is false. While the PAC separation is allowed under law, it does not in my opinion make the activity good practice, especially when it comes specifically to Chamber of Commerce. By taking sides in local elections or ballot measures, they can only alienate a portion of the voting citizens of a city these same businesses need to survive. That can only be bad for the businesses they are charged with advancing.
Larry Corwin November 10, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Moonshine you and your base of supporters really should face the reality of this city no matter how difficult this may be. To conclude this election or the last or the one before that or the 4 ballot measures have been about $$$, you are mistaken given the overwhelming support by the citizen's of San Clemente and is simply denial. A very large (and growing) majority of this City support our smaller town feel over large development or projects that require special needs. We all like responsible development and we all support quality local businesses, but you need to recognize that projects that require City subsidies or ordinance variances or anything else will likely not fly. We understand your preference to a higher degree of development, but you may be waiting a long time for this town to become that if ever. The best advise I can offer is, enjoy this city for it's unique beauty and charm or find another that better suits your taste.
Moonshine November 10, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Larry, Where was this comment and the repudiation of the false statements before the election? I disagree that the $100,000+ in expenditures, mostly on negative attack mailers, didn't influence the election. And, quite frankly, so would most astute political observers. But we can agree to disagree. I also disagree that intentionally lying to residents, demonizing candidates and projects, and distorting positions puts residents first. I think it puts whatever interest is being advocated first. The election is over, the voters have spoken and now we'll see what will happen. I know that there is a very real concern among the business and commercial property owners community about the direction of town. A lot of people who own property have put up their properties for sale (Historic City Hall, Tropicana, etc..) or are considering it. Hopefully the new majority isn't really as hostile to such interests as they repeatedly proclaimed on the campaign trail. Only time will tell.
Larry Corwin November 11, 2012 at 12:25 AM
The 100k claim spent on attack ads is quite ridiculous and part of your serious denial. I've heard as much as 40k was spent by Bib Baker was to right an injustice to our electoral system being whether it was done with malice or not. Subtract the normal costs of campaign signs, flyers and promotional materials leaves a small percentage on the mail campaign. It would not surprise me if cost of mail on both sides were equal or close to it. Your very real concerns for local businesses are unwarranted or certainly no different than they were at any time in the past. Running a successful business in San Clemente is challenging here and everywhere else. Having a chamber of commerce that seem to be clueless as to how to advance their members interests does not help. Ownership of properties like Tropicana or historical city hall will come and they will go. One mans retirement is another mans opportunity.
Moonshine November 11, 2012 at 05:14 AM
I'm talking about the "Watchdog" PAC. Why don't you get some quotes on how much a mailer to 20,000 residents costs. Then multiply that by 8. After that, post that number here.
Moonshine November 11, 2012 at 06:26 AM
Larry, I'm concluding nothing other than Charles Mann lied in his mailers and that he now admits it. Tom Barnes' attempt to suggest statements regarding Baker's vote against the handicap bathroom at Courtney's Sandcastle, which Baker admitted and reasoned, is laughable. So is your attempt to deflect the point of not only this article under which you're commenting but my comment. Yes or no, Larry, Charles Mann lied? Character counts. But doesn't always win.
Moonshine November 11, 2012 at 06:30 AM
By the way, I must say that I think it's admirable that Charles Mann owned up to his lies. There are simply too many people in this world who deceive others and never own up to it. For example, people who own low income housing units, and who are slumlords or those that lease the same supposedly low income units out for more than they're permitted to, such that they earn more than they're entitled. Character counts.
Larry Corwin November 11, 2012 at 05:30 PM
In the end the message the voting public had to decide was, Do we elect candidates that prefer maintaining a village atmosphere in San Clemente or do we prefer candidates that appear to favor looking at larger development projects from the perspective of the developer. This in my opinion was what the election was squarely about and the results speak for themselves.
Adam Townsend November 12, 2012 at 02:12 PM
This is a comment from a reader who goes by the handle "Prince" who had a glitch that caused his comment not to post properly. He emailed it to me: Shameful yes, but more like criminal to me... Many of us knew this was a lie early on, yet we hear nothing (then or now) from the two winners. "Watchdog for S. C. responsible government?" You must be joking. If I were a judge, PAC officers would be prosecuted, a new election would be held, and the winners would be disqualified for for NOT standing up for responsible government. If an apology only wins the day, then the local folks are again stuck with what lies have wrought. PS - Believe you gave Mann a softball headline today: "Local Activist Apologizes for Election Mailers." I thought he apologized for LYING? After all, he didn't use the wrong stamp on his mailers.

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