To say the District 4 race is contentious is an understatement.

District 4 Supervisor Lynn Compton is facing 32-year-old challenger Jimmy Paulding in a heated election. Both candidates have hurled allegations about each other that the local media has taken aim at. Recently, the two traded barbs over campaign mailers they sent out about each other. While Paulding held Compton to account over her views on offshore oil drilling, Compton chided an “entitled” Paulding and his father. In her mailer, Compton ridiculed the fact that Paulding’s father transferred title of his father’s house to his son. Out of all the things a candidate to be accused of, having the love and affection from a parent isn’t exactly controversial.

But that isn’t the first time Paulding’s family was attacked in this election.

“Does Jimmy’s mom believe her son’s lies about Lynn doing nothing to improve parks or build a new sheriff’s substation, or does she support lies as long as her Jimmy is elected?” wrote a Facebook user named “Samantha Joan” on The Tribune. The comment was made in response to a viewpoint from Atascadero resident Jay Salter, who mentioned Paulding’s mother, Sue. Mrs. Paulding recounted the story of Jimmy and his sister being born premature and on “death’s threshold” for months before making a miraculously recovery.

“Joan” is associated with Karen Velie, publisher of the controversial and beleaguered online tabloid CalCoastNews. In 2015, I noticed “Joan” had made allegations similar to the allegations exclusively reported by Velie. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that “Joan” and at least four other anonymous Facebook accounts played a social media game Farmville with a character named after one of Velie’s grown daughters. These accounts had also made allegations about left-leaning public figures approximately a week before they were published as “news” on CCN, often without a byline. Each of these accounts had Velie as one of their only friends. By 2016, each anonymous account associated with “Joan” amassed a strong following of known and influential SLO County residents. Allegations they made throughout social media were syndicated on their Facebook feed along with various links to CCN.

Many of these anonymous allegations resurfaced in another heated race between District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill and former SLO city councilman Dan Carpenter in 2016 — this time on a Facebook page called “Fire Adam Hill.” Organizers of the page, who were also anonymous, produced professionally edited video ads and bragged openly about “spending thousands” in Facebook advertising to discredit Hill. Many of these ads were links to CCN articles. At one point, “Fire Adam Hill” veered away from their anti-Hill propaganda to call a recent defamation lawsuit against CCN a malicious and pernicious lawsuit against an “accredited news agency,” a talking point exclusively circulated by Velie. CCN is not accredited.

Despite the anonymous mud-slinging and propaganda, Hill was re-elected and CCN lost their defamation lawsuit for $1.1 million. But when Russia was involved in meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential race using similar tactics with Facebook, they were successful.

One of the lawsuits representing CCN in their defamation lawsuit was James McKiernan, who is reportedly dating Lynn Compton. According to two of Compton’s campaign aides, the supervisor has been in a relationship with McKiernan for two years. During the trial, I overheard Velie say to McKiernan, “Thank Lynn for me,” after indicating her lawyer was retained after Compton personally recommended him.

Shortly after the trial verdict was reached in late March, Velie couldn’t be found. The Tribune reported that attorneys representing the lawsuit plaintiff Charles Tenborg attempted to serve her with a notice to appear for debt examination “at least two dozen” times to various addresses throughout the county listed for her business and relatives. Even her own attorney stated in court that he had trouble reaching her. But according to a private investigator tasked to tracking her whereabouts, Velie was reportedly seen “camped” at Compton’s home in Nipomo. When I tried confirming the investigator’s account with Compton, she didn’t respond.

Velie reappeared at the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business (COLAB)’s 8th Annual Dinner Fundraiser one month later. In April last year, Velie was in attendance and seated beside Compton. Former radio personality Dick Mason captured a photo of Velie at the event when Compton briefly vacated her seat. Velie was invited to attend the fundraiser, despite COLAB’s Government Affairs Director Mike Brown stating that no press was allowed in. According to two event attendees, COLAB members reiterated their support for the writer while Compton was seated beside her at the table.

Karen Velie is seen circled in the photo at the 2017 8th Annual COLAB Dinner Fundraiser. Compton was seated beside her prior to this photo being taken (Source: Paso Robles Daily News)

The same attendees told me Compton reportedly wrote a check at the table for Velie. Velie hand-wavingly dismissed the check and reportedly told Compton, “I only take cash for now.” It’s unclear what the payment was for.

Following his announcement to run for Compton’s seat in August 2017, CCN ramped up negative coverage of Paulding. CCN derided Paulding and his supporters for “bullying” Compton, who reportedly backed out of the first scheduled debate with Paulding in April this year. Latino Outreach Council, the organizers of the debate, reportedly told a different story, stating they moved the candidate forum to another night. At one point, the website ridiculed SLO County Environmental Resource Specialist Brandi Cummings for weighing in on the debate dispute, implying she could be fired for expressing herself.

Paulding revealed he answered CCN’s request for comment, reiterating what the Latino Outreach Council told him. In the original article text, CCN claimed Paulding did not respond to her.

“It is obvious that the story changed to cover for Lynn. And, as typical, it is the Cal Coast News Karen Velie who is doing her bidding, along with poor investigative reporting,” said Paulding.

“Reporters are also lying, everyone but Jimmy,” Velie snapped back in a comment posted on CCN, referring to herself in third-person. She added, “At 31, is Jimmy Paulding unaware of how it looks to be caught manipulating the public in order to win an election. This is the opposite of the integrity and civility Paulding says he will bring to the board.”

The anonymous account “Samantha Joan” has repeated the allegation that Paulding is “manipulating the public in order to win an election.” Like Velie, “Joan” has accused Paulding of being an abusive “handpicked puppet of [District 3 Supervisor] Hill.” The “puppet” remark appeared in several comments posted by “Steve Edwards,” another anonymous Facebook account, that repeatedly compared Paulding to Hill. As of May 27, “Edwards” has posted nearly the same comments about Paulding over 80 times this month throughout Tribune articles and social media.

But manipulating the public is exactly what Velie/CCN is doing — whether it’s for her personal benefit or COLAB’s. As evidenced by court records that were recently made available, Velie admitted under oath exactly that while knowing the claims they presented on CCN were untrue. What’s mind-boggling is how Velie continues to engage in this deceptive behavior despite losing a defamation lawsuit for $1.1 million and being completely exposed.

It’s mind-boggling that a political candidate like Lynn Compton would want to be associated with CalCoastNews, a website now widely recognized for manipulating the public. If Compton financially supports the manipulative, delusional politics of Karen Velie, what does that truly say about her moral compass?

Aaron Ochs is a columnist, marketing entrepreneur and founder of SLO Truth. Ochs is also involved in his community as founder of Save Morro Bay (