Monday, April 20, 2009

Vargas v. City of Salinas, S140911

Election, other ballot measure: expenditure of public funds: to distinguish between (1) “campaign” materials and activities that presumptively may not be paid for by public funds, and (2) "informational” material that ordinarily may be financed by public expenditures; (…) explicitly prohibits a local agency’s expenditure of funds with regard to “communications that expressly advocate the approval or rejection of a clearly identified ballot measure” (Gov. Code, § 54964, subd. (b)) (p. 13); (…) improper when the “style, tenor, and timing” (Stanson, supra, 17 Cal.3d at p. 222) of the publication demonstrates that the communication constitutes traditional campaign activity (p. 30); more recently, however, in McConnell v. Federal Election Comm’n (2003) 540 U.S. 93, the high court recognized that political experience since Buckley has demonstrated the ineffectiveness and artificial nature of the “express advocacy” standard. As the court in McConnell explained: “While the distinction between ‘issue’ and express advocacy seemed neat in theory, the two categories of advertisements proved functionally identical in important respects.  Both were used to advocate the election or defeat of clearly identified federal candidates, even though so-called issue ads eschewed the use of magic words such as ‘Elect John Smith’ or ‘Vote Against Jane Doe’.  Little difference existed, for example, between an ad that urged voters to ‘vote against Jane Doe’ and one that condemned Jane Doe’s record on a particular issue and exhorted viewers to ‘call Jane Doe and tell her what you think.’  Indeed, campaign professionals testified that the most effective campaign ads, like the most effective commercials for products such as Coca Cola, should, and did, avoid the use of the magic words.” (McConnell, supra, 540 U.S. at pp. 126-127, fns. omitted.) (fn 16, p. 37); thus, when viewed from a realistic perspective, the “express advocacy” standard does not provide a suitable means for distinguishing the type of campaign activities that (as Stanson explains) presumptively may not be paid for with public funds, from the type of informational material that presumptively may be compiled and made available to the public through the expenditure of such funds.  And, as we have seen, there is no indication that, in enacting section 54964, the Legislature intended to modify or displace the principles and analysis set forth in the Stanson decision. (p. 39); the record does not indicate that the city council approved any special measure that purported, clearly and unmistakably, to grant the City explicit authority to expend public funds for campaign activities relating to Measure O (p. 42); (…) use of the public treasury to mount an election campaign” (id. at p. 218, italics added) as the potentially constitutionally suspect conduct, rather than as precluding a public entity from analytically evaluating a proposed ballot measure and publicly expressing an opinion as to its merits (p. 44) (Cal. S.Ct., 20.04.09, Vargas v. City of Salinas, S140911).

Elections, autres votations : dépense des deniers publics : distinguer entre (1) matériel et activité de campagne qui par présomption ne peuvent pas être financés par des fonds publics, et (2) matériel d’information qui peut d’ordinaire être financé par des fonds publics. Est certes prohibée la communication qui fait la promotion expresse de l’approbation ou du rejet d’un objet en votation. Mais la Cour Suprême fédérale a jugé que l’expérience politique acquise depuis la jurisprudence Buckley a démontré l’ineffectivité et la nature artificielle du standard de la promotion expresse. En effet, peu de différence existe, par exemple, entre une publicité qui exhorte le corps électoral à voter « contre Jane Doe » et une publicité qui condamne les actes de Jane Doe s’agissant d’un point précis et qui incite les lecteurs de la publicité à « appeler Jane Doe pour lui dire ce que vous pensez ». Le dossier n’indique pas que le conseil municipal aurait approuvé une mesure spéciale conférant à la ville de Salinas une compétence explicite d’étendre l’usage des fonds publics pour des activités de campagne liées à l’objet soumis au vote. L’entité publique peut donc évaluer analytiquement un objet soumis au vote et peut publiquement exprimer une opinion s’agissant du bien-fondé de dit objet.

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