Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

Melanie Shelby Wont Play With Politics

Posted by Roobs on August 17, 2010

Former Prop 8 Supporter Dodges Questions on LGBT Issues, Attacks Questioner.

Back on July 2, 2010, I wrote a post about Oakland City Council candidate, Melanie Shelby, who is running in District 4.  Melanie Shelby is well known in and out of political circles for her past support of Proposition 8 – California’s same-sex marriage ban.  Why?  Because she told everyone.

Because Melanie Shelby stated she has changed her view on same-sex marriage since starting her campaign for city council, I requested clarification from the Shelby campaign on her past and current position on same-sex marriage.  I received no response.  I wrote my post based on conversations with political insiders who have spoken to Shelby regarding this very issue.

(You can read my post here)

Melanie Shelby began saying she is working with Equality California since starting her campaign; supposedly in an effort to share her story of an evolving view of same-sex marriage.  However, she has never really explained what project this is.

Following the ruling in the case challenging Prop 8 on August 4, 2010, the Shelby campaign released a statement where she again claimed to be working with Equality California and other LGBT activists.  She also stated Californian’s still struggle with the “moral implications” of same-sex marriage.

(Read Melanie Shelby’s full press-release here.)

I again sent an email to the Shelby campaign asking for comment.  I asked what project and relationship she has with Equality California and what she meant by “moral implications”.  I also sent an email to the press office of Equality California asking them to comment on any project or relationship they had with Shelby as well.

I’m still waiting for Equality California to respond but after receiving the following response from the Shelby camp I feel compelled to address it.  I will, of course, update upon any response from Equality California (if any).

Response from Camp Shelby:


I thank you for your inquiry into the statement put out by the Melanie Shelby for City Council 2010 campaign.  While we are open to (and welcome) interaction with press, your recent posts to public forums including the East Bay Young Democrats google group stating “I too am very glad that Judge Walker has overturned Melanie Shelby’s vote against my right to marry and would love to contact some friends at EQCA to find out exactly what this unnamed project she is working on with them” leads us to the belief that you are writing with intent to continue to do nothing but slander Melanie’s name.  You’re stating “I support Libby Schaaf for Oakland City Council District 4 in the upcoming election.  I began this post after I was asked to consider supporting Shelby.  This post is not about why you or I should support Libby but instead, why I cannot support Melanie Shelby” on your blog suggests that you are either doing this in a coordinated effort on behalf of the Schaaf campaign or as in independent expenditure committee which would require you to file with the Oakland Ethics Committee, which to our knowledge you have not done. At this point, we respectfully request you cease all contact with the campaign.

Sean Dugar

P.S. I have cc’d Libby Schaaf for City Council Campaign Manager, Jenny Feinberg, on this e-mail because Melanie and all candidates signed the “Code of Fair Campaign Practices” when filing to run for this office. While I doubt they have asked you to do this, if you are acting on their behalf or behest it would be a violation of Section 2 which states “I Shall Not Use Or Permit the use of character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander, or scurrilous on any candidate or his or her personal or family life.” To which they would have to utilize section 6 of that same agreement “I Shall Immediately And Publically Repudiate support deriving from any individual or group which resort, on behalf of my candidacy or in opposition to that of my opponent, to the methods and tactics which I condemn. I shall accept responsibility to take firm action against any subordinate who violates any provision of this Code or laws governing elections.”

Ouch.  Way to attack the questioner.  I honestly don’t understand how someone on Shelby’s communication team thought this would be a good response.  It doesn’t even really make me look bad as a questioner.  Instead, this kind of response makes it look like the Shelby campaign has something to hide.  Not only does it not answer my questions, but it basically says “How dare a supporter of another candidate ask these question.  Who do you think you are?  I’m telling!”

Oh well.  Maybe Shelby should rethink her current communication strategy and team.

What About My Questions?

The Shelby campaign never answered my questions, instead opting to attack the questioner and leaving the public and LGBT community wondering what Shelby’s current position is on same-sex marriage as well as what she is working on with Equality California and other LGBT activists.  It also leaves the community to wonder what is the potential harm of her answer?

Further, what does Shelby mean when she suggests there are “moral implications” to same-sex marriage?  Is there something morally wrong with the LGBT community that would arise if they are allowed to marry?

Are these not legitimate questions?  If not, then why not?

Do I Have a Conflict of Interest?

This is a larger and more controversial part of the campaign’s response.  Am I doing this on behalf of the Libby Schaaf campaign?  The answer is an unequivical no.  I do not work for, am not employed, receive  money or in kind gifts from any member of the Libby Schaaf campaign.  Now, do I support Libby?  Sure.  I don’t live in Oakland, can’t vote for her and I’m moving to Los Angeles in less than two weeks, but sure.  I do not hide from that fact.  Hell, I disclosed that from the outset in my previous post.

Full Disclosure: I support Libby Schaaf for Oakland City Council District 4 in the upcoming election.  I began this post after i was asked to consider supporting Shelby.  This post is not about why you or I should support Libby but instead, why I cannot support Melanie Shelby.

I would like to know the logic behind suggesting I am somehow part of a coordinated smear campaign against Shelby from this statement.  Somehow, because I state that I support Libby Schaaf but this is “why I [emphasis on I] cannot support Melanie Shelby”, I am somehow an employee of the Schaaf campaign.  This isn’t the nurses union vs. Meg Whitman.  Or is it?  I wonder which one of us is the nurses and which one is Whitman?

The fact of the matter is I am an openly gay young man in the East Bay who wants to know what makes Melanie Shelby believe she is the best person to represent the district of a city that heavily voted down the same-sex marriage ban.  If Shelby cannot answer these simple questions that are very important to the LGBT community, then how can we trust she will represent the best interests of our community in a position of government?  Does she honestly believe voters who have not made up their minds would not be interested in these questions?  Or maybe she is more concerned with how those voters would react to her response?

It also begs the question who she WILL answer questions from.  Clearly, anyone who supports another candidate who asks Shelby questions is conducting a smear campaign and the Shelby camp wants nothing to do with them.  Does that mean she will only answer questions from her own supporters?  Way to draw up memories of staged George W. Bush town halls or Sarah Palin being interviewed by Bill O’Riley.  It’s kind of friendly territory.

Further, the campaign goes out of its way to point to a public forum where I posted a comment and basically made my intentions clear to research Shelby’s claim of a relationship with Equality California.  Well, I invite everyone to go to the East Bay Young Democrats Google group and look for Shelby’s press-release.  There is a reason it is no longer posted.  This is because Sean Dugar, as a member of the Shelby Campaign and listed contact person on the press-release, violated standard EBYD rules regarding political posts. (Note: I am an Executive Board Member of EBYD).  Sean did not disclose his clear relationship with the Shelby campaign or the fact that EBYD has not endorsed in any of these races.  As a result, the post was forced to be pulled after members objected.

It also humors me that Sean chose to email Libby Schaaf’s campaign manager because I didn’t even know Libby had a campaign manager, let alone her name.  I don’t even get press-releases from the campaign and I’m a local blogger!  But now I know and have her email address.  Thanks Sean!

Independent Expenditure

An independent expenditure (IE) is basically political activity that is conducted in support of or in opposition to a candidate.  The activity is not necessarily done with the expressed consent, cooperation or knowledge from any candidate.  For example, the nurses union currently engaged in a holy war against Meg Whitman would be an independent expenditure.  While their attacks on Meg Whitman benefit Jerry Brown as Whitman’s opponent, the nurses union does not conduct its activities on the consent, cooperation or direct knowledge of the Brown Campaign.

The problem with Sean’s assumption that I am required to file as an IE is that, well… I’m not.

First, I’ve already addressed the issue of conflict of interest.

Second, as a blogger, I am not obligated under any law to file as an IE for conducting research or asking questions for the purposes of writing a blog post, regardless of any stated support I may or may not have for any candidate.

Third, an IE is necessary when the political activity involves spending money on campaign materials or activities.  I am not producing any campaign materials and as a blogger using a free Word Press account, I have not spent a single dime on my past post or this current one.  I am under no legal obligation to file with the FPPC or any municipal agency.

This is really more a bully tactic than anything else.  It’s an attempt to make me feel as if I am doing something wrong or somehow in violation of the law when, in fact, I am not.


Again, with the legalese.  I have significant experience working for and with legal professionals, whether they be lawyers or judges.  I enjoy the use of legalese and codes in arguments because how you interpret them reveals something about the reader.

The campaign quotes from the California Code of Fair Campaign Practices, which candidates usually sign when they decide to run for political office.  They specifically quote Sections 2 and 6 of the code which states:

(2) I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT the use of character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander, or scurrilous attacks on any candidate or his or her personal or family life.

(6) I SHALL IMMEDIATELY AND PUBLICLY REPUDIATE support derived from any individual or group which resorts, on behalf of my candidacy or in opposition to that of my opponent, to the methods and tactics which I condemn. I shall accept responsibility to take firm action against any subordinate who violates any provision of this code or the laws governing elections.

Section 2 is fairly obvious.  The Shelby campaign is claiming my questions regarding Shelby’s past record on LGBT rights amount to a whisper or smear campaign.  Given Shelby’s predilection for crying foul, I can only assume she would also object to the LGBT community’s questions of California State Senator Roy Ashburn.

Roy Ashburn is the conservative Republican senator from Bakersfield who was forced out of the closet after being pulled over by CHP for DUI in Sacramento.  He was driving with a male companion.  Since then, the LGBT community has held Ashburn at arm’s length.  This is because, after an almost 100% anti-LGBT voting record in Sacramento, he now asks for support from the same community he served to condemn while in office.  By Shelby’s logic, this is clearly a smear campaign orchestrated by a vast gay conspiracy.

Section 6 basically states that a candidate is expected to come out against any person or group that essentially says anything negative about the other candidate.   The spirit of this code is to prevent a campaign from falsely attacking their opponents.  In this case, the Shelby camp is asking the Schaaf campaign to come out and condemn my questions.

For legal nerds out there, this is basically the same thing as defamation.  Defamation is defined as:

(1) The act of harming the reputation of another by making a false statement to a third person. If the alleged defamation involves a matter of public concern, the plaintiff is constitutionally required to prove both the statement’s falsity and the defendant’s fault. (2) A false written or oral statement that damages another’s reputation.

Basically, defamation is if I say something false about another person in a public forum and it harms that other person’s reputation. But again, only if the negative statement is false.  So, is Shelby or her campaign now arguing that she never actually voted for Prop 8?

I highlighted the middle sentence because it states that if Shelby believes I am making false accusations about her, it is her duty, not mine, to prove how it is false and how I am at fault for putting the information out there.  However, the definition of defamation or smear campaign does not resemble my past post or this current one.  For Shelby’s campaign to suggest otherwise is a far reach.

Section 6 also uses the term “subordinate”, which I can tell you does not include a member of the public who just so happens to be a supporter of another candidate.  Subordinate refers to someone under your direct control, such as a campaign staffer or consultant, of which I am none of.  If this wasn’t the case, Jerry Brown would have to come out to Netroots Nation and condemn all bloggers for attacking Meg Whitman.  Good luck with that.

Don’t Attack the Messenger

I don’t necessarily blame Shelby’s camp for going this route.  It makes sense because they can attempt to put the blame on their opponent as well as myself.  Its political strategy 101: attack the messenger.  But the one thing I would point out to the Shelby campaign is actually Section 1 of their much beloved Code of Fair Campaign Practices:

(1)   I SHALL CONDUCT my campaign openly and publicly, discussing the issues as I see them, presenting my record and policies with sincerity and frankness, and criticizing without fear or favor the record and policies of my opponents or political parties which merit such criticism.

Melanie Shelby voted for Prop 8 back in 2008.  Period.  Whether you agree with Prop 8 or not, this is fact.  Another fact is that Oakland is home to the third highest LGBT population in the entire country, only behind San Francisco and Seattle.  How are these questions about Shelby’s past and current position on LGBT issues a smear campaign?  And what about the sincerity and frankness Shelby promised to campaign on?  Shelby has continually refused to answer very simple questions regarding her positions and relationship with Equality California.  She insists that she is working with LGBT activists but refuses to identify them.  These are questions that were not brought up out of thin air but resulted from Shelby’s very own record and claims.

Again, I encourage all readers and concerned voters to contact Melanie Shelby at melanie@shelby4oakland and ask her to clarify her position on same-sex marriage and her record of voting for Proposition 8.

Full Disclosure… again:  I support Libby Schaaf for Oakland City Council, District 4.  The views expressed in this post are my own and not those of any candidate or candidate’s committee.  I am not employed, do not receive money, coffee, pizza, buttons, bumper stickers, hints, winks, nods or hugs from any competing campaign or committee.


One Response to “Melanie Shelby Wont Play With Politics”

  1. […] the Shelby Campaign’s really bad, though entertaining, response as well as my rebuttal by clicking here.  It really is a great example of what a bad communications team can do for a candidate.  But […]

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