Help Stop Illegal Government Spending For Political Activity

Warning to California Taxpayers

In the last few weeks, we have been informed of numerous instances of taxpayer funds being used for political purposes. In most cases, local school district resources are being used to support local bond measures.

OUTRIGHT ADVOCACY OF THIS NATURE IS ILLEGAL AND YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEMAND THAT SUCH ACTIVITY STOP!

As a service to all of our members and taxpayers throughout California, we have set forth below two separate versions of a form letter that you can use to warn local governments and school districts that the use of taxpayer funds for political advocacy is prohibited by state statute and the United States Constitution and can result in civil and criminal sanctions. You should adapt these forms as necessary to apply to the facts in your district.

Taxpayers may wish to provide a "cc" of any letter to HJTA. This serves the dual purpose of letting the offending agency know that HJTA's attorneys have been made aware of the transgression as well as keeping us informed with respect to the nature and frequency of this activity around the state. Taxpayers may also wish to "cc" local media. While some voters may be sympathetic to an agency and its revenue requests, they may not be sympathetic to the illegal use of taxpayer funds.


FORM LETTER FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS


Superintendent ____________
_____________ School District
1234 Ripoff Avenue
Anytown, CA 91313

Re: Taxpayer Dollars for Political Advocacy

Dear Superintendent ___________,

The enclosed material was handed out to parents attending open houses at schools in the ___________ School District. It is apparent that the material was printed at School District expense and distributed on school grounds during an official school function.

[and/or]

On [date], district employees, on district time, [describe campaign activity].

Under California law, including Education Code § 7054, school districts are strictly prohibited from engaging in political advocacy using public resources. No use may be made of school property, funds, personnel, supplies or equipment "for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure." Violation of this provision can either be a misdemeanor or felony and is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. §7054(c). 

School districts may make public statements of an informational nature, provided they are factual and impartial. Statements that are not factual, that are not impartial, or that address subjects beyond the scope of the limited legislative authorization in section 7054, are prohibited both by statute and by our state and federal Constitutions.

The Free Speech clauses of the federal and state Constitutions prohibit the use of governmentally compelled monetary contributions (including taxes) to support or oppose political campaigns since "[s]uch contributions are a form of speech, and compelled speech offends the First Amendment." Smith v. U.C. Regents (1993) 4 Cal.4th 843, 852.

Moreover, "use of the public treasury to mount an election campaign which attempts to influence the resolution of issues which our Constitution leaves to the 'free election' of the people (see Const., art. II, § 2) ... presents a serious threat to the integrity of the electoral process." Stanson v. Mott (1976) 17 Cal.3d 206, 218.

The activity/materials at issue violate these core democratic principles in the following manner:  [Describe in detail how the materials or activity either express support for the measure or how the materials or activity are so one-sided that they would fairly be characterized as advocacy as opposed to informational].

It is a serious breach of the public trust when government officials spend public funds to create an advantage for one side of a political campaign. We have informed the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association about this activity. As you may know, HJTA has successfully sued individual officials in similar circumstances for an accounting and personal reimbursement of mishandled public funds.

In order to avoid litigation over this matter, we demand that the __________ School District immediately cease using its funds, school property, personnel, supplies or equipment to influence the election. Printing of the material must cease and any remaining offending material not yet distributed must be destroyed.

If we receive written confirmation from you within the next ten days that these demands have been met, we will take no further action.

Sincerely,


I. Rate Taxpayer
Anytown Taxpayers Association


cc: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Legal Department
Local media


FORM LETTER FOR CITIES, COUNTIES AND SPECIAL DISTRICTS


[Mr./Ms.]
[Name of Chief Administrative Official Here]
[Name of Local Government Here]
1234 Ripoff Avenue
Anytown, CA 91313

Re: Taxpayer Dollars for Political Advocacy

Dear [Mr./Ms.] _______________,

On [date], employees of your agency, on agency time, [describe campaign activity].

Under California law, local governments are strictly prohibited from engaging in political advocacy using public resources. Local governments may make public statements of an informational nature, provided they are factual and impartial. Statements that are not factual, or that are not impartial are prohibited both by our state and federal Constitutions.

The Free Speech clauses of the federal and state Constitutions prohibit the use of governmentally compelled monetary contributions (including taxes) to support or oppose political campaigns since "[s]uch contributions are a form of speech, and compelled speech offends the First Amendment." Smith v. U.C. Regents (1993) 4 Cal.4th 843, 852.

Moreover, "use of the public treasury to mount an election campaign which attempts to influence the resolution of issues which our Constitution leaves to the 'free election' of the people (see Const., art. II, § 2) ... presents a serious threat to the integrity of the electoral process." Stanson v. Mott (1976) 17 Cal.3d 206, 218.

The activity/materials at issue violate these core democratic principles in the following manner. ____________________________   [Describe in detail how the materials or activity either express support for the measure or how the materials or activity are so one-sided that they would fairly be characterized as advocacy as opposed to informational].

It is a serious breach of the public trust when government officials spend public funds to create an advantage for one side of a political campaign. We have informed the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association about this activity. As you may know, HJTA has successfully sued individual officials in similar circumstances for an accounting and personal reimbursement of mishandled public funds.

In order to avoid litigation over this matter, we demand that the [Name of Local Government] __________ immediately cease using its funds, property, personnel, supplies or equipment to influence the election. Printing of unlawful material must cease and any remaining offending material not yet distributed must be destroyed.

If we receive written confirmation from you within the next ten days that these demands have been met, we will take no further action.

Sincerely,

I. Rate Taxpayer
Anytown Taxpayers Association

cc: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Legal Department
Local media