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Fliers' Sender Didn't Break Law

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John Anders, a Richmond resident, says he created and mailed the fliers to voters shortly before Election Day, mistakenly using the name of a long-established political action committee, Virginians for Responsible Government.

The red-and-black cards Anders mailed linked Grimm with the Richmond Crusade for Voters and with council members Reva Trammell and Sa'ad El-Amin.

Although Grimm was endorsed by the Crusade, Grimm says the flier was "a scare tactic, and with racism involved — because this was a largely black organization that supported me." Melvin Law, recently elected Crusade president, adds that language in the flier was misleading.

The flier "speaks for itself," Anders responds via e-mail, declining to elaborate.

Grimm received about 48 percent of the votes as a write-in candidate. Brooks, who received 52 percent, denies authorizing the flyer, and Anders confirms he is not affiliated with Brooks' campaign.

On Oct. 29, a week before Election Day, Anders faxed paperwork to the state Board of Elections to start a PAC called Virginians for Responsible Government. The employee who handles such requests was on sick leave, so a few days passed before the board notified Anders that the name was taken.

But he had already labeled his flier with that name.

Ken Hutcheson, executive director of the genuine Virginians for Responsible Government, says that his committee works to re-elect state senators. He says his committee members are "none too happy with what's going on."

Nevertheless, "the bottom line is, there is no violation," explains Monica Cousins, campaign finance administrator with the State Board of Elections. Although it's illegal to use a registered PAC's name without permission, Anders apparently didn't know the name was already in use before sending out the fliers, she says.

Anders' group spent money before they filed a statement of organization, which is against board policy, Cousins says, "but there's nothing illegal about that."

After the board notified Anders that the name "Virginians for Responsible Government" was taken, he changed it to "Responsible Government for Virginians."

— Melissa Scott Sinclair

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