Protected Government Speech
Original post made by Jack Hickey, Woodside: Emerald Hills, on Apr 8, 2014
Recent discussion about political implications of speech has focused on the supreme court ruling regarding campaign contributions. As they say, money talks.
A proposed ballot measure by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz would have boosted the state minimum wage to $12/hour. That’s not my cup of tea, but it’s his money. George Soros has spent bucks to legalize marijuana. Now your talking! The Koch brothers have put millions into campaigns for school vouchers. They have my vote! I believe in choice!
Those are individual choices.
I’m concerned about involuntary expenditures for electioneering communications. One such example, union’s misuse of member dues, pales when compared to tax dollars used to influence elections. I call this “Government Speech”.
Should government agencies be allowed to launch “touchy feely” campaigns while they are pursuing bond measures or parcel taxes?
Examples: 1. The San Mateo County Community College District spent $250,000 for glossy flyers and heart wrenching anecdotal TV commercials while a $148,000,000 bond measure was on the ballot. 2. The Sequoia Healthcare District makes a practice of sending “touchy feely” communications mere weeks before their elections. 3. The MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District, seeking approval of a $300,000,000 Bond is engaging in similar communications.
The Supreme Court has identified two categories of communication as being unambiguously campaign related. First, “express advocacy,” defined as a communication that uses specific election-related words. Second, “the functional equivalent of express advocacy,” defined as an “electioneering communication” that “is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.” (Leake, 525 F.3d at 282-83)
The California Legislature needs to limit “speech” of these agencies by making such “express advocacy” a felony misappropriation of public funds.