Guttersnipe campaign literature (10-24-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 24, 1941)

Background of news –
Guttersnipe campaign literature

By editorial research reports

With issues growing out of the war dominating the public mind, and various minority groups under attack as “pacifists” or “warmongers” or “defeatists,” the stage appears to be set for an unparalleled smearing of candidates in forthcoming primary and election campaigns.

The committee of the U.S. Senate which investigated expenditures in the 1940 presidential and Congressional campaigns found that last year’s general election had brought forth a vast volume of literature appealing to religious and race prejudices, and attacking the personalities and families of candidates. The committee recommended study by the Senate of remedial legislation designed, among other things:

…to provide protection for candidates for nomination or election to any federal office against false, libellous, and scurrilous campaign materials.

A study of campaign leaflets and pamphlets collected by the committee has just been completed by Prof. Hugh Bone of the University of Maryland. It shows that the greater part of the “hate literature” of 1940 was published and circulated by individuals or organizations which had no connection with the national political parties. The most scurrilous publications came from “anonymous and undisclosed sources.” However, the parties themselves were not completely exonerated by Prof. Bone, for he found that the Republican National Committee had attempted to connect the Roosevelt administration with the “fifth column” and that Henry Wallace had asserted that Hitler desired the election of Willkie.

Much of the campaign literature of the smear type appeared to have had its origin in New York City. A measure of control over circulation of such literature in New York State has since been provided by a law passed last spring. It requires that all campaign literature for or against a candidate standing for office in New York State carry the name, in English, of a person or group responsible for its contents and also of the name of the printer or printing establishment by which it was produced. Violation of the statute is to be punished as a misdemeanor.

On the national scene, Senator Gillette (D-IA), chairman of the Campaign Expenditures Committee, has introduced two bills designed to curb the dissemination of guttersnipe literature. One bill would make it unlawful to publish, print, or in any way circulate any matter of a “fraudulent or scurrilous character” tending to incite hatred against any religious sect or race, concerning any candidate in a national election. The bill would also require that all matter printed, published or circulated about such candidates bear the name and address of the person or group by or for whom it was printed.

Gillette’s second bill would require that all printed matter which tends to expose any group or class of persons to public hatred because of race, religion, descent, or nationality, which is designed to influence a national election, disclose the name and address of every person supporting or knowingly circulating it. This bill would authorize the appropriation of not more than $500,000 annually to establish an “Office of Minority Relations” to investigate the activities of all persons who write, publish or circulate the matter described in the bill, and to compile and publish information revealed by these investigations.

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