Yes On Measure T! On June 6th Vote YES for Local Control of Our Democracy!
Get Involved Today!       Make a Donation!      Get Email Alerts!

News Articles

Alone, Measure T Would Increase Dirty Campaigning Get Involved Today!

Times-Standard MY WORD by Andrew Bird
May 19, 2006

Measure T has a major problem: Without an accompanying legislative fix, the measure is likely to encourage more of a particularly sleazy type of campaign ad that it seeks to ban.

Measure T is the initiative that Humboldt Coalition for Community Rights qualified for the June ballot. It seeks to ban non-local companies and organizations from contributing to local campaigns.

The ballot argument for Measure T cites a series of cloak-and-dagger hit ads that targeted Chris Kerrigan in the 2004 Eureka City Council race as a reason to vote yes.

The sad fact is, because of a particularly onerous state appellate court ruling that the Legislature has failed to correct, if Measure T passes we are likely to see more of these ads in local campaigns. And local authorities would be powerless to stop them.

This is because the court ruling, which allows such campaigners to remain secret, would usurp any local law.

Late in the 2004 Eureka City Council campaign, a series of very negative ads -- slick mailbox brochures and television spots -- targeted Chris Kerrigan, blaming him for just about every problem Humboldt County faces.

The ads were signed by “Eureka Coalition for Jobs.” No individual names were signed to any of them.

I was a reporter for this newspaper at the time. We quickly learned that Eureka Coalition for Jobs was not a registered campaign committee. Next, we tracked the ads to an influential Sacramento lobbyist -- Wayne Ordos, a former executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission, or FPPC, the state agency that enforces California campaign law.

Ordos had been paid to hire a San Francisco agency to create and place the ads. However, Ordos refused to reveal who had paid him.

Full of vim and vinegar, I demanded of Ordos how he figured he could get away with violating California's Political Reform act, the law that requires campaign committees to register with the secretary of state.

Ordos, a polite man, gave me a crash course in the current state of campaign law in California.

In 2001, an out-of-state group calling itself “American Taxpayers Alliance” started running a series of television ads sharply critical of Gov. Gray Davis. The ads blamed Davis for the state's energy crisis, and coined the term “grayouts.”

As it was a year before Davis was up for re-election, the ads did not advocate a vote for or against Davis. Nevertheless, the Davis campaign sued in an attempt to force the group to reveal its backers. A San Francisco Superior Court judge sided with the Davis campaign.

But the California Court of Appeals, 1st District, sided with the American Taxpayers Alliance, in a ruling that opined so-called “issue advocacy” ads are protected by the First Amendment and that forcing the group to reveal itself would have a chilling effect on free speech. (The Governor Gray Davis Committee v. American Taxpayers Alliance, A096658.)

Ordos used this ruling to justify keeping “Eureka Coalition for Jobs” under a cloak. To this day, the cloak has never been lifted.

Indeed, the Eureka Coalition for Jobs ads did not advise a vote for or against Kerrigan. But they were exceedingly deceitful, mendaciously accusing Kerrigan of being responsible for the North Coast's economic woes.

This newspaper filed a complaint with the FPPC, seeking to force Ordos to register “Eureka Coalition for Jobs” as a campaign committee, thereby revealing those who paid for the ads. The complaint pointed out a huge difference between Davis in 2001 and Kerrigan in 2004: Kerrigan was a candidate and the election was less than a week away when the ads first appeared.

But the FPPC sided with Ordos, refusing to act on the complaint.

Also in 2004, State Sen. Dean Florez, a Democrat from Shafter who'd had an experience similar to Kerrigan's, introduced Senate Bill 36, which sought to close this loophole.

At this newspaper's request, North Coast Assemblywoman Patty Berg signed onto the bill as principal coauthor. However, SB 36 was drafted as an “urgency” measure, which would have made it effective immediately, and it failed to muster the required two-thirds vote in the Senate last summer.

I understand what the supporters of Measure T are trying to accomplish. But without a legislative fix that has passed court muster, Measure T would encourage those who are shut out of open campaigning to hide behind a front man and sling the sleaze, like the Eureka Coalition for Jobs did against Kerrigan.

I am for more local control in local elections, too. But not at the risk of more of this most vulgar type of campaigning in Humboldt County.

Andrew Bird, a former Times-Standard reporter, is a Eureka resident.

Write a letter to the editor in response to this article!

Return to News

Humboldt County Leaders Endorse Measure T!

Democratic Party of Humboldt County

Green Party of Humboldt County

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

... and hundreds of other individuals and local businesses! Join us today!

View the full list of public endorsements!


Learn More!

Pros and Cons of Measure T

Learn more about Measure T in a Pros and Cons Video, produced by Eileen McGee (51 mins)


Radio Ads


Chris Kerrigan, Eureka City Counsel, and Kate Christensen, owner of The Garden Gate, support Measure T! (1 min)


Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney, and Nezzie Wade, community member, support Measure T! (1 min)


Larry Glass, owner of The Works, and Dennis Rael, owner of Los Bagles, support Measure T! (1 min)