An Obscure Public Agency Has Been Funding Campaigns To Oppose Private Property Rights

Orange County Register Exposes Fundraising Scheme

Most informed voters are aware that there are only two measures on the statewide ballot next week. Prop 98 is supported by the California Farm Bureau Federation Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association National Federation of Independent Business the California Association of Realtors and a host of other interests seeking to preserve and defend property rights in California. The other measure Prop 99 was put on the ballot through funding almost exclusively through associations of government entities — the lion’s share from the League of California Cities.

The irony in this initiative battle is that the government interests have repeatedly accused the property rights interests of having a "hidden agenda" simply by including a phase out of rent regulations along with eminent domain reform. Rather than hidden the provisions dealing with price controls on property are prominent and appear near the very beginning of the measure. Indeed references to these provisions are replete through the ballot pamphlet.

While accusing Prop 98 supporters of having a hidden agenda it turns out that the real secret behind this battle is the funding sources for the anti-property rights effort. On Sunday an Orange County Register investigative news story reported how the League has been using an obscure public agency to divert public money into political campaign accounts to deny Californians private property rights.

Several months ago proponents of private property rights filed a complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) that objected to how the League of California Cities the California State Association of Counties and the California Redevelopment Association had spent millions of anonymous campaign dollars to qualify Prop 99 for the June ballot. Prop 99 is nothing more than a sham designed to trick voters into opposing Prop 98 the only eminent domain reform measure appearing on the ballot that protects all private property all the time.

Today the FPPC is investigating the three taxpayer financed organizations for not revealing the true source of all this campaign cash. Given this anonymity media sources government watchdog groups and the public cannot determine who is actually financing Prop 99 and the opposition to Prop 98. Could it be the politically connected developers who benefit from government forcibly seizing private property from unwilling sellers? Or are these taxpayer financed associations using taxpayers dollars for campaign purposes?

The Orange County Register has now exposed a much broader fundraising scheme that provides further evidence of public financing of political campaigns. The Register reports that an obscure public agency called the California Statewide Communities Development Authority is the source of millions of dollars funneled to political accounts to defeat Proposition 90 an eminent domain ballot measure that was narrowly defeated in 2006 — and these are the same campaign accounts that are the primary source of funding for the No on 98/Yes on 99 campaign.

California Communities is controlled by the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties but is managed by a private firm. The organization declined requests by the Register to provide information that could shed some light on what appears to be a clever scheme to funnel public dollars to campaign accounts. And while the League and CSAC denied that they used public money from California Communities to oppose Prop. 90 the Orange County Register reported that internal budget documents showed otherwise.

According to the Register the League’s budget shows that in 200 more than $3.6 million was moved from an account where California Communities money was held and put into a League political committee. That very same year campaign finance records show that the same League political committee contributed more than $3.5 million to the No on Prop 90 campaign.

Fast forward to the June 2008 ballot. To date the League of California Cities the California State Association of Counties and the California Redevelopment Association have funneled more than $4.5 million to oppose Prop 98 / support Prop 99 from the very same anonymous campaign accounts exposed by the Register and under investigation by the FPPC.

As members of these organizations your local elected officials have the authority and right to demand that all internal documents be disclosed publicly and they should do so immediately — and State Legislators should call for a thorough investigation as well.

Today associations controlled by your elected officials appear to be using public money to oppose private property rights; tomorrow these anonymous campaign accounts could be used for ballot measures that raise taxes create wasteful new spending programs and weaken government accountability standards.

The intentions of Prop 98 proponents to restore private property rights in California are transparent. It is our hope that the investigative work done by the Orange County Register will educate voters to the fact that it is the proponents of Prop. 99 that have the "hidden agenda" — an agenda apparently paid for by California taxpayers.

Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.

Read the Register’s investigative report.

Read the Register’s editorial on this scheme.