Did you know that postal service machinery can't be used to scan red mail? They use a red laser to read bar codes, so putting a bar code on a piece of red mail is a waste of time.
I got this tidbit from Hector Rodriguez, a county legislator for New Paltz who has a lot of experience in the mailing business. His mailing experience comes from working for Cornerstone, the source of the red card, and his political experience includes working on Jason West's 2003 and 2011 campaigns, and he admits that he has some biases in this case. He's also an expert with knowledge in all these areas, which is why I picked his brain regardless.
I find the direct mail regulations to be daunting, but Hector assures me that nobody broke any laws with that mailer. However, while I have maintained that Cornerstone failed by simply taking the business, Hector believes that their expertise was critical in making it a success: he does not believe that anyone in New Paltz could have sent that mailing and kept it legally anonymous without expert help. Not only was red a good choice to avoid having to use a bar code, the permit used also has two standard formats. The other one would have disclosed the name and address of Cornerstone's client.
The red card was cheap to produce and inexpensive to mail. It probably wasn't greed that led Cornerstone to take the job, because profit margins are razor-thin and Hector assured me that no one got rich off of this job.
While the mailing itself was cheap, Hector believes that the anonymous culprit didn't get his or her money's worth with the list they bought. He's been trying to reconstruct it based on his knowledge of mailing and the board of elections. The BOE will provide lists for free, but adding in a charge for acquiring the data is one of the ways that Cornerstone makes money off its clients. (I don't think there's any ethical problem with that; if Cornerstone does the work they deserve something for it. Hector disagrees, feeling it's a form of fleecing.)
Based on the people dead and alive who received the mailing, Hector doesn't feel the sender got a mailing which was very well targeted. Like many people, he believes that West's campaign may have benefited from it. And I didn't ask him if the campaign did it themselves, because he volunteered that information: "We couldn't have come up with a strategy like that if we tried."
My gut is to believe that statement. The idea of someone pulling a massive switch like this to garner votes by appearing to drive them away fails to meet the Occam's razor test. I will remain skeptical of any such charges unless evidence is produced to back them up.
My gut further tells me that no mayoral candidate was involved, but time will tell if my gut needs a checkup. Evidence is far more effective than speculation. Readers have been kind in providing me with five or six suspects, at last count, but all I've been able to compile is one piece of extremely circumstantial evidence to implicate one prominent New Paltz resident. I won't insult my readers or risk libel charges by claiming I am anywhere close to reaching an answer, but I thank the readership for helping. This is not a mystery which can be solved by only one of us.
Other readers encourage my boycott of Cornerstone until they apologize, and complaining to the USPS itself. Interested citizens may call the Newburgh office at 567-2331 or complain using this form.
Please keep your theories and evidence coming, but remember that evidence is what drives any investigation.