Court Strikes Down Attempt to Allow Taxpayer-Funded Campaigns

Alexandria, VA –  A Sacramento County Superior Court judge struck down a law passed late last year to allow state and some local governments to enact taxpayer financing of political campaigns.  The Court ruled the Legislature’s attempt to bypass a vote of the people on such legislation violated the California Constitution and the 1974 Political Reform Act as amended.  The decision was issued August 24, but not received by the plaintiffs until yesterday.

The lawsuit was brought by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) and former State Senator and retired Superior Court Judge Quentin Kopp, who was a co-author of Proposition 73, the initiative measure that enacted the taxpayer-financing ban upheld by the court’s decision.

Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said, “This is a great win for taxpayers and a further rebuke to the California Legislature’s attempts to interfere with the initiative process.” Coupal noted that an earlier version of SB 1107, which was enacted into the challenged law, would have put the measure on the ballot, but the Legislature at the last minute struck that provision.

The challenged law amended California Government Code section 85300, part of a 1988 initiative measure known as Proposition 73. That initiative included a provision amending the 1974 Political Reform Act to prohibit taxpayer funding of candidate election campaigns. The court noted that Proposition 73 allowed the Legislature to amend section 85300 by a two-thirds vote, but only if the amendment would further the purposes of the Political Reform Act.

The court rejected arguments by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, on behalf of the governor and the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), that the amendment of Government Code section 85300 would “further the purposes” of the Political Reform Act as well as their argument that the taxpayer-financing ban itself did not further the purposes of the statutory scheme.

In his ruling, Judge Timothy M. Frawley noted that “the purpose of [Proposition 73] is straightforward: to ban taxpayer financing of political campaigns for elective office. [SB 1107] conflicts with the purposes of the Political Reform Act … because it violates this specific mandate.” Judge Frawley wrote that “the issue in this case is not whether the Legislature’s reversal on the ban on public financing of political campaigns is a good idea, it is only whether the amendment [by the Legislature] furthers the purposes of the Act…. [T]he court concludes it does not.”

The Petitioners were represented by Thomas Caso, Clinical Professor of Law, Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University and Director of its Constitutional Jurisprudence Clinic, Charles H. Bell, Jr., of the Sacramento law firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP, and Allen Dickerson, Esq., Legal Director for the Alexandria, Virginia- based Center for Competitive Politics.

To read the Superior Court decision, click here. For more background on the case, click here.

(Case Citation:  Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Quentin Kopp v. Governor Jerry Brown and Fair Political Practices Commission, Sac. Sup. Ct. #34-2016-80002512, declaratory and injunctive relief granted 8/24/2017.  Decision by Judge Timothy M. Frawley)

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.