Critics Question Legality of Bustamante’s Contribution to Proposition 54 Opposition Effort
Republicans and other critics allege that gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante's (D) $3.8 million transfer of funds from an unrestricted campaign committee to a newly created campaign to defeat Proposition 54 violates an untested state campaign finance rule, the Los Angeles Times reports (Morain/Sahagun, Los Angeles Times, 9/9). At a campaign rally in Fresno on Sunday, Bustamante announced his $3.8 million contribution to defeat Proposition 54, also known as the Racial Privacy Initiative, which 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. Bustamante acquired the funds through six- and seven-figure donations from American Indian tribes and labor unions. While current campaign finance law limits campaign contributions to $21,200, Bustamante was able to receive the funds through his old lieutenant governor campaign committee because it was set up before the law's implementation (California Healthline, 9/8). Critics say the transfer violates a law that bars a candidate from contributing more than $25,000 on ballot measures in which they are directly involved (Los Angeles Times, 9/9). Bustamante is the treasurer and controller of the new committee that aims to defeat the measure (Rojas/Hill, Sacramento Bee, 9/9). He will also appear in TV commercials that criticize Proposition 54 (California Healthline, 9/8). Sen. Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), who sued Bustamante last week to challenge his acceptance of the election donations, and other critics said that by appearing in the ads Bustamante is "blurring the line between advocating his position on the initiative and running for governor" because the ads were filmed at a gubernatorial campaign rally, the Times reports. Johnson has requested that the Fair Political Practices Commission block the airing of the commercials (Los Angeles Times, 9/9). Bustamante campaign officials maintain that they are abiding by campaign finance laws. The FPPC's Web site states that recall candidates can control ballot measure committees and that the committees are not subject to spending limits (Sacramento Bee, 9/9).
Summaries of related news coverage appear below.
- Hispanic leaders from the Mexican American Political Association, the University of California, the Latino Issues Forum and the Latino Center for Medical Education and Research on Monday called a news conference in Fresno to express their opposition to Proposition 54, the Fresno Bee reports. The event was similar to others organized around the state to oppose the initiative. At the Fresno news conference, Dr. Alvaro Garza, research director at University of California-San Francisco's medical education program, said, "We need to know the what, where, when and who of health so we can direct policy decisions" and tax funds (Kennedy, Fresno Bee, 9/9). KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?" today discussed Proposition 54 as one of several issues in the recall election that could "galvanize" Latino voters (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 9/10). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- Ward Connerly, the initiative's chief proponent, on Monday held a news conference to announce that he is continuing efforts on behalf of Proposition 54 despite Bustamante's transfer of $3.8 million in campaign donations, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/9). "We're not throwing in the towel, by any means," Connerly said (Garcia/Guido, San Jose Mercury News, 9/9). He said that the Bustamante campaign's donation to the No on 54 initiative "will greatly outweigh what we have to spend." Funds supporting Proposition 54 have dropped to about $100,000 after expenditures of $2 million used to gather signatures to get the measure on the ballot (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/9). Connerly said he expects to raise an additional $100,000 at most (San Jose Mercury News, 9/9).
- The Palo Alto City Council on Monday voted unanimously to formally oppose Proposition 54, the San Jose Mercury News reports (San Jose Mercury News, 9/9).
- The Riverside Press-Enterprise looks at Riverside County and San Bernadino County residents' views on Proposition 54, including some residents' concerns about its effect on tracking utilization of county services such as prenatal care (Obsatz, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/7).
- The FPPC announced yesterday that Sacramento Superior Court Judge Thomas Cecil has moved the hearing date for a complaint against supporters of Proposition 54 from Sept. 26 to Sept. 19, the Los Angeles Times reports. The FPPC sued the Connerly and his American Civil Rights Coalition last week for failing to disclose its sources of funding for the pro-Proposition 54 campaign. The commission requested that the hearing be moved up so that in the event that the initiative's proponents are required to disclose contribution sources, the public will have sufficient time to learn of the financial backers before the Oct. 7 vote (Los Angeles Times, 9/10).
Summaries of an opinion piece and editorials addressing Proposition 54 appear below.
- Proposition 54 is "as dangerous as it is misguided" because it would "turn back the clock of civil rights by barring reasonable access to data that are not only critical to civil rights enforcement but also to addressing challenges in education and health care," David De Luz, president of the San Francisco NAACP, writes in an opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee.
- If it is not illegal for Bustamante to exceed campaign contribution limits, use a committee established during a previous campaign, appear in issue advertisements and accept millions in contributions from sovereign American Indian nations, "it ought to be," a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial states. The editorial adds that breaking campaign finance reform laws "in letter or spirit" leaves voters "scratching our heads in wonder or disgust" that the laws are so "murky and ineffective" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/10).
- After obtaining millions in donations through a "campaign finance loophole," Bustamante has led some to "wonder about the propriety" of his diversion of $3.8 million to the effort to stop Proposition 54, an Orange County Register editorial states. Bustamante's appearance in advertisements opposing Proposition 54 would "raise his visibility in his recall race," the editorial states, adding that it is "unfair to Prop. 54 supporters to allow these questionable funds to be used to defeat the measure" (Orange County Register, 9/9).
Additional Proposition 54 coverage is available online. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.