Bustamante Must Make ‘Good-Faith Effort’ To Cancel Ad Contracts, Judge Says
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster on Friday ordered gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D) to make a "good-faith effort" to cancel contracts with television stations for anti-Proposition 54 advertisements that were funded with contributions to his old campaign committee that exceed new state limits, the San Jose Mercury News reports (San Jose Mercury News, 9/27). The judge on Sept. 22 ordered Bustamante to return to donors funds originally obtained through an old campaign account -- most of which were transferred to the Cruz Bustamante Committee Against Proposition 54. Proposition 54, also known as the Racial Privacy Initiative, would prevent California government agencies and schools from collecting racial and ethnic data but would allow exemptions in instances involving some medical research data, convicted criminals or crime suspects and occasions in which the federal government requires racial data. However, on Wednesday, McMaster changed the wording of the ruling to read that the campaign must return any funds it still "controlled" instead of "possessed." Bustamante's campaign says that $2.2 million in commercials had already run by the time of the ruling and that the campaign sent another $2 million to stations before the ruling to pay for last week's commercials (California Healthline, 9/26). On Friday, McMaster said he was not requiring Bustamante to violate any contract with the TV stations; he was asking him to "make inquiry regarding whether the contracts can be canceled and a refund obtained" (San Jose Mercury News, 9/27). The ruling requires that Bustamante prove that he cannot cancel the ads and obtain refunds. Bustamante said that his advisers on Friday began calling television stations. "We're making every effort to call them, and they're basically saying, so far, 'You've paid for these spots, and we're not going to give you a refund,'" Bustamante said, adding that he and his advisers would do "whatever the judge says."
However, Sen. Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), who filed the original lawsuit against Bustamante, said, "I don't believe [Bustmante]" (Sample, Sacramento Bee, 9/28). Johnson's attorneys say that industry practice generally allows for cancellation of advertisements up until air time and usually permits refunds of some or all of the money spent on the ads (Berthelsen, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/27). Johnson said Bustamante's campaign has sent him copies of two contracts and that one "appears to allow cancellation in case of legal problems," the Bee reports. Under the judge's ruling, Johnson can file contempt charges against Bustamante if he is not satisfied that a good-faith effort has been made to comply with the order (Sample, Sacramento Bee, 9/28). According to Johnson's attorneys, the order could require Bustamante to cancel as much as $1 million in advertisements that are scheduled to air over the next 11 days. However, Bustamante's attorneys said that some of the advertisements in question, which were purchased on Monday and Tuesday after the judge's ruling, were funded with new donations (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/27).
Summaries of other Proposition 54 coverage are provided below.
- The San Diego Union-Tribune Monday looks at how the Oct. 7 recall election is overshadowing Proposition 54 and how it may affect the measure's chance at passage (Wolf Branscomb, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/29).
- Support for Proposition 54 is partially fueled by California's "policy mishmash" -- state agencies' inconsistent collection of racial or ethnic information and disparate strategies for tracking such information -- the Sacramento Bee reports (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 9/28).
- The Contra Costa Times Saturday looked at University of California Regent Ward Connerly's campaign in favor of Proposition 54 as part of an effort to create a "colorblind society" and redefine how people think about race. Connerly is the author of Proposition 54 (Sturrock, Contra Costa Times, 9/27).
- Proposition 54 has generated "heated, occasionally bitter, debate" about the ballot measure's potential long-term effects, including claims from public health researchers who maintain that the initiative would make it harder to track disease incidence information, the Los Angles Times reports (Trounson, Los Angles Times, 9/28).
- About 100 high school and middle school students from Oakland attended an anti-Proposition 54 rally sponsored by the Coalition to Support Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary at the University of California-Berkeley on Thursday, despite a request from Berkeley Police and the UC-Berkeley Office of Community Relations to Oakland school principals that they not allow their students to attend, the Oakland Tribune reports (Brand, Oakland Tribune, 9/26).
Summaries of editorials addressing Proposition 54 are provided below.
- "Colorblindness is an honorable ideal, but Proposition 54 would do nothing to bring it about," a Los Angeles Times editorial states, noting that ending racial data collection would "hamper efforts to ... understand and treat racial variations in many diseases" (Los Angeles Times, 9/28).
- While it would be "morally repugnant to oppose" Proposition 54, the measure should not be approved because it is a "bad law" that is "poorly crafted" and "would result in conflicting interpretations and enforcement," a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial states. The law does not clarify what is allowed under the medical research exemption and could potentially bar the collection of information used to "fight cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the spread of infectious disease and numerous other maladies that have racial components," the editorial states (San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/29).
- While Proposition 54 allows for clarifications of medical exemptions with a two-thirds majority vote and the governor's signature, that should not be necessary to "continue collecting race data on birth and death certificates, two primary sources for epidemiological research," or for the University of California and the Department of Health Services to continue public health surveys that "have identified racially disparate trends in infant mortality, ... HIV infection, cancer, diabetes ... [and] health care coverage," a Sacramento Bee editorial states (Sacramento Bee, 9/29).