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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.

Comments (5)

Posted by Race to the bottom
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 8, 2014 at 4:15 pm

" The Koch brothers have put millions into campaigns for school vouchers. "

Sure. Let's kill the American concept of Public Education once and for all.

The Kochs inherited their oil company from Daddy Koch, who put them through the finest schools (Deerfield Academy prep, MIT, etc..) Public education is clearly overrated.

By them.

Posted by John F
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 8, 2014 at 4:26 pm

>>>heart wrenching anecdotal TV commercials

Jack is just unhappy, because he tried to do a "heart wrenching anecdotal TV commercial" representing his libertarian mindset. It was an old fart whining: "I don't wanna pay taxes and support our community!!! My kids are already out of school!!! Why me?!?"

You saw it, didn't you?

Good post, Jack. You hit the ball and touched them all: bad, bad, evil unions, school vouchers, minimum wage, Soros, and of course, your pet - SHD.

Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 9, 2014 at 10:37 am

Besides MROSD's $300,000,000 Bond Measure(AA) which requires a 2/3 vote for passage, Sequoia High School District has a $265,000,000 Bond Measure on the June Ballot which only requires 55%.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has provided an excellent tutorial and history on the subject of Bond Measures.
Web Link
Here is Background information from that tutorial:


For 121 years, the California Constitution required a two-thirds vote for local bonds that are repaid exclusively by property owners. By placing the two-thirds vote requirement in the California Constitution of 1879, the framers acknowledged that not everyone who voted was obligated to repay the bonds. Proposition 46, a 1986 constitutional amendment, also required two-thirds voter approval to increase the property tax rate above 1% of a property's assessed value in order to repay local bonds.

Unlike state bonds which generally do not have a corresponding tax increase to repay the debt, local bonds are accompanied by a tax increase to repay the debt. Thus, when a local education bond is approved by voters, it is accompanied by a separate property tax increase to repay the debt.

The property tax rate is increased above the 1% tax rate limit of Proposition 13 (1978) in order to repay the debt. The amount of additional property tax paid by a particular parcel is determined by multiplying the applicable property tax rate increase by the assessed value of the parcel. Property tax rates to repay local bonds are often expressed in dollars per $100,000 assessed valuation (e.g., a tax rate of $100 per $100,000 assessed valuation).

In November 2000, a small group of Silicon Valley multi-millionaires and billionaires spent more than $32,000,000 and succeeded in passing Proposition 39, lowering the vote requirement for local school and community college bonds, and the corresponding property tax increase to repay the bonds, to 55%. This new lower vote threshold means that virtually every local school and community college bond will pass, regardless of merit, unless local citizens campaign actively in opposition.

Posted by Cervantes
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 9, 2014 at 2:57 pm

tl;dr. Just another windmill tilted at....

Loved the prior post...

>>he tried to do a "heart wrenching anecdotal TV commercial" representing his libertarian mindset. It was an old fart whining: "I don't wanna pay taxes and support our community!!! My kids are already out of school!!! Why me?!?"

My take? Repeal the COMMERCIAL exemptions in Prop 13, the loophole that keeps commercial property from being reassessed, and over time has but an inordinate burden on residential property owners, and far less on commercial property owners.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 9, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Nicely written, Jack.

We always forget to count the "speech" that is NOT counted in the campaign contribution tally. For the right, that may be Fox News. For the left, that may be the New York Times and MSNBC.

Why does their political speech and "campaigning" not count as money but similar speech from Soros and Koch do? (Yes, I am well aware of freedom of the press, but why does speech from you count as money, but from them doesn't?)

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