CalTax filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission this week, asking the state’s political campaign watchdog to conduct an immediate investigation into Los Angeles County’s use of tax dollars to campaign for Measure W, a parcel tax on the county’s November 6 ballot.
“The County has violated the law both by making the expenditures and by failing to file campaign reports disclosing its campaign-related spending to the public,” the October 22 complaint notes.
“Los Angeles County is a repeat offender when it comes to illegally using taxpayers’ money for campaign purposes, and we are hopeful the state’s campaign watchdog will take action to stop this egregious misuse of tax dollars,” said CalTax Director of State and Local Finance Robert Gutierrez, who signed the complaint.
Under the guise of “educational outreach” to voters, the county has budgeted $11.2 million to produce videos and campaign mailers that urge voters to support Measure W. One of the “educational” videos produced with public resources never mentions that Measure W is a parcel tax. Another refers to a “parcel tax to modernize LA county’s outdated water system,” but gives no information about how the tax would be calculated, or how much it would cost county residents.
Earlier this month, the FPPC found probable cause to pursue the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and individual members of the board on 15 counts of failing to disclose (unlawful) political expenditures by the county in favor of Measure H, a tax that appeared on the 2017 ballot.
State law prohibits the use of tax dollars on political campaigns. FPPC regulations provide that a communication can be considered a political advertisement when “considering the style, tenor, and timing of the communication, it can be reasonably characterized as campaign material and is not a fair presentation of facts serving only an informational purpose.”
Many local governments have violated this law in recent years, and CalTax is hopeful that FPPC enforcement actions in Los Angeles County will have a positive impact statewide.
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