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Measure T Opponents Sharpen Attacks 

Daniel Mintz, McKinleyville Press Get Involved Today!
April 18, 2006

Opposition forces are coalescing against the ballot measure that seeks to ban local political spending by out-of-town corporations, and the debate will almost certainly be carried to courtrooms if the proposed law passes.  

A response to the county’s history of lump sum corporate spending in controversial elections, Measure T seeks to ban election contributions by outside corporations. Drafted as a restorer of democratic power to residents, Measure T has nevertheless provoked bitter reactions from those who say the proposal is designed to tilt political victories to left wing candidates and ballot measures. 

And the measure’s critics also say hopes for its implementation are hollow because it will flop once put to legal and constitutional tests. They want the Humboldt Coalition for Community Rights, Measure T’s sponsor, to drop the campaign and work for an across-the-board $500 limit on political contributions instead. 

But as guarantees of court resistance continue, those who challenge Measure T have yet to address its core legal arguments. 

‘Piece of Shit’ 
Measure T resistance is intensifying with the formation of the No on Measure T campaign group, which is being led by Chris Crawford, chairman of the Humboldt Business Council. In an interview, Crawford said the measure is a “naked power grab intended to disenfranchise legitimate stakeholders in this community – the hard-working men and women who employ our workforce.” 

The campaign to pass the “slanted and insulting ordinance” should be dropped in favor of a spending cap that applies to everyone, Crawford continued. He asked why the Coalition for Community Rights wants to fight when everyone can work in harmony for a spending cap that’s fair. 

“We will set aside our differences with those who wrote this piece of shit (Measure T) to work together on a campaign finance reform ordinance -- that would be a refreshing change, and a statement of common purpose,” Crawford said. 

Further opposition has been launched by Rob Arkley, Jr., the foil of local liberalism who owns the multibillion dollar Security National Servicing Corporation. 

Arkley’s discontent could be translated into a well-funded legal challenge to Measure T. In an April 5 letter to County Counsel Tamara Falor, Arkley outlined a lengthy and extensively footnoted legal analysis that portrays the measure as a certain courtroom loser. 

In a separate letter to the candidates in the district attorney and fourth district supervisor elections, Arkley argues that Measure T’s corporate shut-out is oppressively restrictive, banning corporations like his own, which employ residents and have a local presence.

Calling that aspect “a hallmark of fascism,” the county’s most famous and infamous arch-conservative asked the candidates to explain their positions on the measure and to include legal analysis of stances different than his. 

Arkley’s letter to Falor informed that he’s had a legal expert assess the measure and was told that “it could never survive a legal challenge.” He asked Falor to pass his letter on to county supervisors and “I urge all of them to do everything within their power to see that the ordinance never becomes law.” 

But Arkley’s legal analysis doesn’t grip Measure T’s cornerstone arguments. 
Measure T’s Case 
Arkley mentions the landmark First National Bank of Boston versus Bellotti case as one that played a role in defining the legality of corporate political spending. It did indeed do that, but it also left an opening that Measure T is capitalizing on. 

The 1978 Supreme Court ruling struck down a Massachusetts statute that prohibited corporations from spending money on referendum campaigns. But the court also declared that it would have considered arguments against corporate spending if there had been evidence showing that they were “supported by record or legislative findings that corporate advocacy threatened imminently to undermine democratic processes.”

In addition to asking voters to approve the corporate ban, Measure T asks them to make the legislative findings that the Supreme Court had requested. The measure’s supporters believe that with the evidence specified by the First National Bank of Boston case’s justices in hand, a credible legal argument against corporate election participation can be advanced. 

Humboldt County also has a specific “record” or history of massive corporate political involvement, as ballot measure campaigns in 1999 and 2003 each saw hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of spending from the Wal-mart and Pacific Lumber Company/Maxxam corporations. 

And Measure T Campaign Coordinator Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap said Arkley’s request for the county to intervene shows a lack of understanding of the state’s ballot initiative process. “The County doesn’t have the authority to stop the vote on June 6th,” she said. “This issue is for the voters to decide directly, even if Mr. Arkley would like to see otherwise.”

But is Measure T a means of giving liberal groups an edge over conservative and corporate sources of political lobbying? Answering that, Sopoci-Belknap said that Democracy Unlimited, the anti-corporate group that she belongs to and is a member of the campaign, would itself be considered non-local and barred from political spending if Measure T passes. 

“Even though Democracy Unlimited will no longer be allowed to make campaign contributions once Measure T passes, the organization still supports this campaign because it will protect local control for the people of Humboldt County," she said. 

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Humboldt County Leaders Endorse Measure T!

Democratic Party of Humboldt County

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Central Labor Council of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local #1684

Building and Construction Trades of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties

Carpenters Union Local #751

Operating Engineers Union Local #3 AFL-CIO

Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney

Peter LaVallee, Eureka Mayor

Chris Kerrigan, Eureka City Council

Dave Meserve, Arcata City Council

Harmony Groves, Arcata City Council

Paul Pitino, Arcata City Council

Bob Ornelas, Former Arcata Mayor

Connie Stewart, Former Arcata Mayor

Elizabeth Conner, Former Arcata City Council

Julie Fulkerson, Former Humboldt County Board of Supervisors

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