The San Diego County Democratic Party will be reporting a violation to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) over the plans of the County Registrar of Voters to insert partisan campaign literature into the official sample ballots it will be mailing to Republican voters next month.
An obscure section of the state Elections Code allows a county party organization to pay to include a fundraising letter in the voter guide sent to that party’s voters. However, the San Diego Republican Party is exceeding the scope of the law -– in a way unprecedented in California –- by placing a full-color page with its slate of endorsements directly into the booklet that will be mailed at taxpayer expense.
Through their County Counsel, the all-Republican County Board of Supervisors authorized the Republican insert –- which praises the “leadership” of Supervisors Ron Roberts and Bill Horn, who are up for election on the same ballot.
After a recent lawsuit supported by the Democratic Party, a San Diego judge forced the Republicans to alter the format of their campaign insert, but allowed them to include it because they are paying for the additional cost of printing. An appeal, while likely, will come too late to affect the printing schedule.
However, the court did not address a different law under FPPC Regulations (Sections 18420 and 18420.1) that requires government agencies paying for campaign-related communications to report the value of their expenditure as a contribution.
The Republican Party would have to pay about $50,000 in postage alone to send its slate mailer to the voters who will receive the insert. Instead, the Party and its campaigns won’t pay a dime in postage –- thus the benefit they will be receiving is a clearly reportable contribution from the Registrar of Voters.
“If the County government is now in the business of sending partisan propaganda under its official seal, it must register as a campaign committee and report those contributions under California law like any other committee,” said Jess Durfee, Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party.
“The intrusion of partisan politics into government-funded activity is not only an affront to the other candidates and propositions that will be on the ballot in these nonpartisan races,” added Durfee. “It is an outrage to the voters and taxpayers of San Diego County and a sickening blow to the integrity of our election system. We will pursue every recourse until it is stopped.”