Fact Finder: Tracking down two groups behind political mailing

There’s no clear information on who’s sending this mail.
Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 10:45 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Every once in awhile a piece of mail catches our eye. Not just because of what’s on it, but because of what’s missing. There’s not a group name on this postcard. So, in this Fact Finder we track down who sent it and dig into the world of somewhat anonymous political mailings.

The first thing that catches your eye is the frustrated student on the postcard (see picture or video). Any student or parent of a student can relate right now.

But, there’s no clear information on who’s sending this mail.

When you jump from old school postcard to the newly created website there’s not much more here either. It’s just a form letter to state politicians saying our schools have failed us and our children. They need “Liberty” it says.

A Drury professor says you should throw on the brakes before hitting send.

“If they’ve taken time to hide their identity and they’re not referencing any credible sources then it’s reasonable to assume the information is questionable,” says Shannon McMurtrey of Drury University.

The groups behind this mailing also want your name, email and phone number.

“I think that’s where the danger comes in. You’re giving your name. Your voice to someone else in some cases without taking the time to read and see what’s really being said,” McMurtrey advised.

“So, this happens all the time...,” commented Betsy Hoover of Higher Ground Labs.

Betsy Hoover served as director of digital organizing for the 20-12 Obama for America campaign. These days she’s still invested in political technology. And, she doesn’t think this will be the last of semi-anonymous postcards combined with digital tech.

“All over the place. Both sides of the aisle. And, it’s the most effective way to use big dollars which can come into politics in a variety of ways. But, it doesn’t feel super transparent to the voter,” Hoover remarked.

We asked the state Republican party, the Democratic party and the governor’s office who’s sending these out? Nobody knew.

And, then, because we filled out the online forms we got a text from two groups; the Charter School Association and a group called CEAM or The Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri. Both are based in St. Louis.

We emailed requesting interviews; nothing. We called too.

So, we called the number on the card requested an interview.

“Hi, Paul Adler from KY3 news down in Springfield, Missouri. How are you today?”

We’re still waiting.

“Do I advise people to do this? Not often. Because you’re burning trust with the people you actually need to build a relationship with,” remarked Hoover.

KY3 asked two people with knowledge of election laws in Missouri if this type of mailing is legal. They both told us, it’s in a gray area. Here’s what may keep it on the right side of the law; it does not advocate for a specific bill.

But, there are several proposals in the statehouse related to charter schools right now.

UPDATE: After the story aired, Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri contacted us. Spokesperson Nick Elmes told us the organization had no idea CEAM’s name was not on the postcard. He says they designed it and sent it out and thought it would have a return address with their name on it.

As for the website, CEAM is using a 3rd party advovacy platform and they’ve added CEAM’s logo to the website. You can see the website here: OurLiberty.Info

Elmes also wanted to make it clear the postcard mailing is their project. It is not a partnership with the Charter School Association. The language in the text message came from an old agreement with the Charter School Association.

Spokesperson Nick Elmes says CEAM is an open organization supportive of what works for kids. Elmes thanked KY3 for bringing the issue with the postcard to CEAM’s attention.

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