Government Waste Negates Justification for Transportation Tax Hike

LA-Freeway-Xchange-110-105A personal digression: My father was head of the Iowa Department of Transportation (then called the Iowa Highway Commission) in the late ’60s and early ’70s before he was appointed by President Ford to serve as Deputy Federal Highway Administrator. (Of course, he lost that job when Jimmy Carter became president, but he continued to work in the private sector for a transportation think tank.) When I was in high school, I remember him coming home from an ASHTO conference. That organization, the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, was a pretty well respected group and still is. He was complaining bitterly about what was going on in California. I don’t recall his exact words, but the gist of it was that the new head of California’s transportation agency, called CalTrans, had been taken over by a certifiably crazy person (with no background in transportation policy) by the name of Adriana Gianturco. According to my father, in the 1950s and ’60s, California had the best transportation agency in the entire world. But all that changed with the election of a new, anti-growth, small-is-beautiful governor by the name of Jerry Brown.

Now, fast forward 40 years. Gov. Brown, version 2.0, proposes a budget that assumes a big increase in transportation taxes and fees. The California Legislature shouldn’t just say no, it should say hell no.

Where to start? First, let’s take judicial notice of the fact that California is already a high tax state with the highest income tax rate and the highest state sales tax in America. But more relevant for the issue at hand, we also have the highest fuel costs in the nation. This is because of both the 4th highest excise tax on fuel and the fact that refineries are burdened with additional costs to comply with California’s environmental regulations.

The high cost to drive in California might be understandable if we were getting value for our tax dollars. But we aren’t. A big problem is that Caltrans is dysfunctional, plain and simple. It has never fully recovered from the days when the agency was effectively destroyed by Gianturco. A report by the California State Auditor just a couple of months ago concluded that a primary responsibility of Caltrans – maintenance of our highways – is not being executed in a manner that is even close to being efficient or competent. Senator John Moorlach, the only CPA currently serving in the California legislature, reacted saying that “This audit reinforces the fact that our bad roads are not a result of a lack of funding. They’re a result of a lack of competence at Caltrans.” Moreover, a report by the Legislative Analyst concluded that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 employees costing California taxpayers over a half billion dollars a year. All this compels the obvious question: Why, for goodness sake, do we want to give these people even more money?

Another unneeded and costly practice consists of project labor agreements for transportation construction projects. These pro-union policies shut out otherwise competent companies from bidding on projects resulting in California taxpayers shelling out as high as 25% more than they should for building highways and bridges.

Finally, California’s environmental requirements are legendary for their inefficiency while also doing little for the environment. Exhibit A in this foolishness is Gov. Brown’s incomprehensible pursuit of the ill-fated high speed rail project. Not only has the project failed to live up to any of the promises made to voters, it is currently being kept alive only by virtue of the state’s diversion of “cap and trade” funds which are supposed to be expended on projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But in the Kafkaesque world of California transportation policies, the LAO has concluded that the construction of the HSR project actually produces a net increase in emissions, at least for the foreseeable future.

No one disputes the dire need for improvements in California’s transportation infrastructure. But imposing draconian taxes and higher registration fees that serve only to punish the middle class while wasting billions on projects that don’t help getting Californians get to work or school cannot and should not be tolerated. Legislators who present themselves to voters as fiscally responsible need to understand that a vote for higher transportation taxes will engender a very angry response from their constituents.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piecd was originally published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

What CA Taxpayers Need to Know About Gov. Brown’s New Budget

BudgetAverage taxpayers in California are probably aware that the state budget was in the news again over the weekend. But even folks who follow both presidential politics and local issues probably couldn’t be blamed if they tune out stories about the California budget. It’s not that they don’t care. It’s just that public finance issues can be horribly confusing and difficult to follow.

In terms of timing, the process itself is easy to grasp. The annual budget year runs from July 1st to June 30th of the following year. That’s why people refer to a single budget using two years. For example, the budget currently being discussed is the 2016-2017 budget. The Constitution requires that the governor present a budget in January and that the Legislature enact the budget by June 15th. Because state bean counters and analysts don’t have a full grasp of the economy or revenue projections in January, the governor’s budget goes through an update, or “revision,” in May. It was this May “revise” that the governor presented on Friday that has been in the latest news cycle.

But perhaps the most confusing aspect of the state budget is the fact that many of the numbers that are bandied about are inconsistent. Thus, an average citizen might hear on the radio that the state budget is $122 billion dollars. And yet, when they get home, they read that spending is actually $173 billion. At this point they are more apt to turn on the Giants v. Dodgers game rather than make sense of the huge disparity.

The inconsistency in these budget numbers usually is attributable to the fact that there is a big difference between “general fund” spending and total state spending which includes “special funds.” General fund revenue comes from the state income tax, sales tax, corporate tax and a handful of other sources. “Special funds” come from the gas tax and fees from regulatory programs like cap and trade funds. For average taxpayers, the worst example of “special fund” revenue consists of the illegal CalFire “fee” which slams property owners with hundreds of dollars of additional property taxes. The legality of the CalFire fee is currently being challenged in court.

When it comes to the state budget, citizen taxpayers are justified in being both confused and angry. Not a day goes by without some scandal surfacing about those who spend our tax dollars. Whether it is the Bay Bridge, which exceeded the original cost estimate by a factor of six, or California’s feckless policies that have driven up state debt so high that, were the state a private company, it would be immediately eligible for bankruptcy.

As should be expected, California has the largest state budget in the United States. But what should not be expected or tolerated is the hostility of our political leaders toward those of us who pay the bills. California has the highest income tax rate in America as well as the highest state sales tax. Our fuel costs are also the highest due to both the current gas tax and environment regulations. The result of these policies has been an accelerated exodus from the state by both businesses and individuals. It should be painfully obvious even to the Governor and left-leaning legislators that you can’t have a vibrant state budget unless you have a vibrant economy.

Finally, Gov. Brown, while not officially endorsing a proposal to retain California’s sky-high income tax rates, implicitly endorsed it by noting that the state would be in a deficit situation if the measure didn’t pass in California. But this deficit projection is only attributable to higher state costs due to the foolish policies of elected leaders, not state revenues which are actually increasing faster than population and inflation.

The real cure for California’s budget woes is a combination of policies that would make California competitive in the global economy, not higher taxes and more burdensome regulations.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

What Taxpayers Want from Santa

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

A time-tested Christmas joke describes the four stages of life: First, you believe in Santa Clause. Second, you don’t believe in Santa Clause. Third, you are Santa Claus. Fourth, you look like Santa Claus.

As they look down from their lofty perches in the State Capitol, members of the political ruling class see taxpayers as perpetually being in the third stage, supplying a never ending supply of goodies (i.e., tax revenue) to be collected by lawmakers and bureaucrats, and kept, or redistributed, as they see fit.

When taxpayers look back at the politicians, they see them in the juvenile first stage, naively believing in Santa Taxpayer who can effortlessly fulfill their every desire and whim.

Of course, taxpayers can best be described as being in the cynical second stage. They don’t believe in Santa Claus, they work hard, they understand there is no free lunch and they are wary of politicians who try to buy voter support with the money they have extracted from our wallets and pocketbooks.

However, if Santa Claus does exist, here is a list of requests that taxpayers might send to the North Pole:

  • A $39.95 toy train to go under the tree. This will be less expensive, and just as useful, as the $100 billion bullet train the governor and the Legislature want taxpayers to put in their stocking.  Based on the current estimate of costs, the dream train for “good” politicians will cost a family of four over $10,000.
  • Gas tax relief. Counting carbon penalties, Californians pay the highest gas taxes in the nation. Most working Californians, who need their cars for work, cannot afford to drive Teslas. While less expensive alternative fuel vehicles are developed, average folks on modest incomes don’t need to be faced with having to make a choice between being able to fill the gas tank or the grocery cart.
  • Time to catch our breath. In an already high tax state, where the government is running a hefty surplus, taxpayers would like to see a moratorium on tax increase proposals and on efforts to undermine Proposition 13 protections.
  • Reversal of both state and federal policies that have led to the 30 hour work week, instead of the 40 hour week, being considered the standard for full employment.
  • For those taxpayers who have reached the fourth stage of looking like Santa Clause, they wish for a normal life in retirement so they don’t to have to work late in life. That’s a big ask in California because high taxes, which allow government workers to retire comfortably, make life difficult for other seniors who aren’t so lucky.

Asking for more, such as having the politicians stop treating taxpayers like second-class citizens, might seem greedy. So Santa, if you could just deliver any of our wishes above, we would be very grateful.

P.S. There is nothing wrong with looking like Santa Claus.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Still Thankful for Liberty in 2015

Statue of Liberty seen from the Circle Line ferry, Manhattan, New York

With the recent terror attacks against France, America’s oldest ally, most Americans are rightfully concerned for the welfare of our friends abroad as well as our own safety.

With the French, we share a common heritage of a dedication to liberty. The Statue of Liberty that stands proudly in the harbor of New York is a gift from the people of France.

Acknowledging the contributions of French officer the Marquis de Lafayette to the success of our revolution, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stanton a commander of the American Expeditionary Force in WW I, told Parisians on arrival, “Lafayette, we are here!”

While Americans and the French are victims of terrorism because of our beliefs and way of life, both nations continue to value and be grateful for our republican form of government that allows citizens to elect their representatives. And we share a common conviction that we will prevail over adversity.

In California, there is a tendency for taxpayers to see the elected Sacramento political class as working against the interests of average citizens. Nonetheless, we are grateful for elections that allow us to rehire or fire our elected representatives. As Proposition 13 author Howard Jarvis said, “The people we elect are not the bosses, we are.” Howard did not believe that complaining would solve problems, we, the people, had to take responsibility. If we don’t like the service we are receiving from the politicians, he reminded us, it is up to us to fire them and hire a better class of representatives.

Taxpayers are also grateful that over the last year, despite an anti-taxpayer majority in the Legislature, a strong coalition of grassroots citizens led by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association succeeded in defeating all the attacks on Proposition 13. Taxpayers are grateful to every one of these citizen activists as well as those lawmakers who stood firm in defense of the interests of taxpayers.

Although proposals to repeal or weaken Proposition 13 will return in January, the coalition to protect Proposition 13 remains intact, and for this, too, we are thankful.

Howard Jarvis liked to quote the last line of our national anthem, “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” “This means” he would say, “that people cannot be free if they are not brave.” This remains true in the face of international terror as well as when struggling over fundamental principles of government at home.

Finally, it has been said that America has the worst government in the world – except for all the others. And while complaining about government is an American birthright, we must remember that billions of souls around the world risk imprisonment or death for speaking out against their despotic governments or leaders. So, in keeping with the season, let us be thankful that we live in a country that, despite her faults, remains the last, best hope for mankind.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis  Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

​California Taxpayers and the 20th Maine

20th-maine-round-topAlthough comparisons to actual wartime fighting should be used sparingly, California taxpayers can’t help but feel a bit like the 20th Maine Regiment at the battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War.  The actions of the 20th Maine, depicted in the Pulitzer Prize winning book “Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara, are well known to Civil War buffs.

Led by Joshua Chamberlain, who later became Governor of Maine, the 20th Regiment became famous for its defense of Little Round Top, a small hill on the flank of the Union forces.  On July 2, 1863, the 20th Maine was positioned at the far left of the Union line with elements of the 44th New York, 16th Michigan, and 83rd Pennsylvania.  As the Confederacy began its attack, Chamberlain was alerted that the enemy seemed to be pushing toward the regiment’s left. Chamberlain ordered a right-angle formation, extending his line farther to the east.

After an hour and a half under heavy attack and running low on ammunition, Chamberlain saw the rebels forming for another push and ordered a charge down the hill with fixed bayonets, which caught the enemy by surprise. During the charge, a second Confederate line tried to make a stand near a stone wall. The isolated group of Union soldiers, now in a position from which to provide the rest of the regiment with support, fired into the Confederate’s rear, giving the impression that the 20th Maine had been joined by another regiment. This, coupled with the surprise of Chamberlain’s bold attack, caused panic among the Southerners’ ranks.

The Confederates scattered, ending the attack on the hill. If the 20th Maine had retreated instead, the entire line would have been flanked and the Union likely would have lost Gettysburg. Most Civil War historians agree that holding the hill helped the Union win Gettysburg and turn the tide of the war.

What is notable about the 20th Maine was the number of direct assaults launched directly against its ranks. Time and time again, enemy forces assailed the small force made up of mostly farmers, woodsmen and fishermen. Chamberlain himself was no professional soldier, but rather the Professor of Modern Languages at Bowdoin College.

Like the constant attacks on the 20th Maine, which depleted both the energy and ammunition of its members, political forces in California are lined up against taxpayers ready to make a final push as the current legislative session enters its final few weeks. The question is whether taxpayers and their allies in the Legislature – mostly Republicans – can repel all the tax hikes being proposed.

The proposals are many, varied and all dangerous. Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 seeks to rip Prop. 13 protections away from business owners, including tens of thousands of mom and pop stores. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 seeks to lower the two-thirds vote for local taxes which, if passed, will subject local citizens to massive new tax hikes. In a special session, which is not subject to the same time deadlines as the regular legislative session, there will be a huge push for new transportation taxes, slamming middle class working Californians who rely on their cars for both work and their family life.

Fortunately, there is plenty of ammunition taxpayers can use to counter the assault, starting with the argument that California is already a high tax state with a hostile regulatory environment that has driven many of its citizens and businesses to more friendly jurisdictions. Also, taxpayers will surely assert that, with a $6 billion surplus, the last thing we should be talking about is tax hikes. Finally, government waste in California continues to eat up tens of billions of dollars annually. All these contentions must be brought to the fore if taxpayers are to be victorious in stopping those who want even more money out of our pockets.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Originally published by

Free Rides Program for Drunk CA Senators Withers Under Public Criticism

Ancient Greek historian Herodotus tells us that when the Persians decided a matter while drunk, they made a rule to reconsider it when sober.

Recent news from Sacramento tells us that the state Legislature may have adopted at least the first part of the Persian ritual. Members of the Senate were recently issued cards with a phone number they could call 24/7 when inebriated, so they could be picked up at whatever location and be driven home by a Senate employee. When the program became public last week, it withered under public ridicule and the Senate leadership responded by attempting to quietly put the genie back in the bottle by canceling the free service to lawmakers late Friday afternoon.

However, if the “drunks ride free” cards are no longer valid, the questions raised by this elitist perk remain.

The program was probably a defensive reaction to the bad publicity stemming from the drunken driving arrests of four lawmakers in the last five years, but it makes one wonder: How serious is this problem?  If taxpayers were expected to pay for this service, should money also be spent providing counseling or detox to those members of the Legislature who drink in excess? Perhaps these cards were a tacit admission that some legislators have a drinking problem,which may boost the argument that some have been making that drug testing should be required for elected officials. Just last year such a bill was introduced in the Florida Legislature.

Some will say that safety should be the primary concern, and they would be right, but aren’t our elected officials bright enough to call a cab when they are tipsy?  Perhaps they don’t like dipping into their $142-a-day in tax free expense money, which they get on top of the highest legislative salaries in all 50 states. And considering their ability to influence government policy, is it fair to say that it is most likely that the drinks they consume are not paid for by them but by favor seekers?

Although the cost to taxpayers for the free ride program was relatively small – we have a state budget of $170 billion – it is another symbol of the arrogance of the political class when dealing with other people’s money. It is the same kind of thinking that allowed the Senate President Pro Tem to spend nearly $30,000 in taxpayers’ money on his “inauguration” held at the Los Angeles Music Center.

However, whether members have been drinking or not, sober judgement in the Legislature seems in short supply. Currently, under consideration are bills that would boost the California yearly tax burden by $132 billion, according to an analysis just released by the California Taxpayers Association. Just one bill, Senate Bill 8 by Robert Hertzberg, would extend the sales tax to services, like auto repair and gardening, and cost taxpayers a whopping $122.6 billion a year, says the State Board of Equalization. If all these bills were to pass, it would increase the annual tax liability for every man, woman and child in the state by nearly $3,500.

With all these tax increases coming down the pike, it is the taxpayers who may be tempted to take up drinking, although if lawmakers get their way, alcohol along with everything else, may soon cost more. On thing is for sure, there will be no “free ride” for taxpayers.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Originally published at

Purging Corinthian Colleges student debt may cost taxpayers more than $200 million

As reported by the Orange County Register:

The abrupt closure of Corinthian Colleges may cost U.S. taxpayers more than $200 million in canceled student loans.

Corinthian, the for-profit chain based in Santa Ana, reached an agreement Sunday with the Education Department to shutter its 28 campuses serving about 16,000 students. Forgiving their debt, if all students request it, would cost the government about $214 million, according to Denise Horn, an Education Department spokeswoman.

When a college closes, enrolled students are eligible to have their federal loans discharged, under certain circumstances. Some Corinthian students who are able to finish their degrees by transferring into other programs may not qualify to have their loans canceled, said Daniel Hanson, an analyst with Height Securities in Washington.

Click here to read the full article

For What Are Taxpayers Thankful in 2014?

“In this season of Thanksgiving, please don’t blame taxpayers if they are distracted by the injuries being perpetrated against them by our political class.”  These words were the preface of this column at the beginning of the holiday season in 2008 and, sadly, little has changed.  In fact, in many ways taxpayers are worse off now than they were then.

Six years ago, California’s tax burden was ranked 6th nationally.  Today we trail only New York as the worst state for taxpayers.   We now rank first in state sales tax, first in marginal income tax rates, first in gasoline tax and, even with Proposition 13, we rank in the top third in per capita property taxes.  Because Proposition 13 makes it harder for California to overtake New York as our nation’s number one taxpayer hell, one can expect new efforts by Sacramento politicians to undermine its protections in the new legislative session.

Some of our state leaders like to chirp happily about California’s declining unemployment rate, but only three states are worse off and our 7.3 percent rate is much higher than the national rate of 5.8 percent.  Still, all these figures are suspect because they do not count the discouraged who have stopped looking for work entirely.  And even those counted include many part-time workers for whom the best holiday gift would be finding fulltime employment.

Then there is the constantly growing, and largely ignored unfunded pension liability now estimated at several hundred billion. It stood at $6.3 billion just a decade ago.  As more government workers retire, this debt will come due and will have to be addressed by either reduced public services or tax increases or both.  The pressure for new revenue to support the retired workforce will provide an additional incentive to politicians to demolish Proposition 13’s taxpayer protections.

Nonetheless, while elected officials may be planning to put coal in taxpayers’ stockings as we approach Christmas, there are a few things for which we can all be grateful.

First is Proposition 13, which limits annual increases in property taxes and forces the tax raisers in the Legislature to get a two-thirds vote of their colleagues to raise state taxes.   We at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association hear daily from those who are thankful for Proposition 13 and credit its most famous feature — limiting annual property tax increases to no more than 2 percent — for allowing them to keep their homes.

While during the session just passed, those favoring new taxes dominated the Legislature, the November election has turned out some fiscally irresponsible lawmakers and replaced them with some who understand the detrimental impact of new taxes on individual taxpayers and the overall economy, and who are likely to reject new taxes.  So taxpayers are grateful not only for Proposition 13 but for lawmakers who will defend their interests against great pressure for new taxes from special interests including public employee unions.

Taxpayers are also thankful for all individuals, regardless of party affiliation, who make the personal sacrifice to run for office and present their ideas to voters.  A functioning free republic relies on individuals who are willing to step into the arena, even in those instances where their chances of prevailing are small.

Finally, complaints against government at all levels are an American birthright.  But we are mindful that billions of souls around the world risk imprisonment or death for speaking out against their despotic governments or leaders.  So, in keeping with the season, let us be thankful that we live in a country that, despite her faults, remains the last, best hope for mankind.

Voters beware: Dubious “taxpayers association” reaches new low for slate mailers

Dana Point Mayor Lisa Bartlett is no friend of taxpayers.

In 2009, the Orange County Republican voted to create a special tax on local businesses to fund a tourism marketing campaign for her city. Earlier this year, she voted to raise development fees in Dana Point and sided with public employee unions on contracting out government projects.

So, when Bartlett launched her campaign for Orange County Supervisor, it didn’t take long for the Orange County Republican Party and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to rally behind her opponent, Robert Ming.Mailer-California-Republican-Taxpayers-Association-300x336

“We believe you will be an excellent representative for taxpayers and look forward to working with you in the years ahead,” Kris Vosburgh of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Political Action Committee said in a press release endorsing Ming for the 5th Supervisorial District.

Nevertheless, some Republican voters will head to the polls next month and cast their ballot for Bartlett– under the misguided belief that she’s the anti-tax candidate who is endorsed by the local Republican Party.

It’s not their fault. Conservative Republican voters in Orange County received a recent Bartlett campaign mailer touting the endorsement of the “California Republican Taxpayers Association.” It even included an official-looking seal, modeled after the California Republican Party’s logo. (Pictured above)

There’s just one problem: the California Republican Taxpayers Association isn’t a real organization.

In 2006, Steven Greenhut, the state’s preeminent California political journalist, couldn’t find any documentation to support the organization’s existence.

“I found no evidence of the group ever being mentioned in a US newspaper at any time in a search of the Nexis database,” wrote Greenhut, then with the Orange County Register.

Pay-to-Play Slate Mailers

Every election cycle, political slate mailers inundate voters with mailers touting a list of endorsed candidates under the guise of various issues, community groups and political ideologies.

“Slate mailers are as much a part of the election season as red, white and blue bunting,” Brad Racino of iNewsSource wrote of the slate mailer business in 2012. “It can be confusing. It can be deceptive. It’s been part of the California political landscape for decades and it is perfectly legal.”

Measure F GilroySlate mailers aren’t a new campaign tactic, and they’re appropriately protected as a form of political speech. But, this cycle, the California Republican Taxpayers Association has reached a new low in the slate mailer business, and potentially, run afoul of state law.

An investigation into the self-described “Republican taxpayer” group shows repeated support for tax measures, a violation of the state’s slate mailer disclaimer law, potential violations of the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws and the blatant misuse of the California Republican Party’s protected copyright.

California Republican Taxpayers Association backs tax increases

Since January 1, the California Republican Taxpayers Association has collected $366,085 from dozens of political campaigns. On its website, it assures the public that the candidates and campaigns that pay for space on the mailer comply with its low-tax, Republican ideology.

“Only those candidates who hold firm the values of small government, less regulation and less taxes are represented on our voter guide,” the California Republican Taxpayers Association promises on its website.

Yet, from Gilroy to Stanton, the California Republican Taxpayers Association is urging voters to support tax increases and school bond measures.

For the low price of $237, the “taxpayer” group sold its support for Measure F, a half-cent sales tax increase in Gilroy. Just a few hundred miles away in Atascadero, the California Republican Taxpayers Association accepted $356 to support Measure F-14, which would raise the city’s sales tax by half a percent.

Perhaps the most egregious example of the group selling its endorsement is Measure GG in Stanton. The controversial measure would allow the city to impose an additional 1 percent sales tax. It’s opposed by both the Orange County Republican Party and the trusted Orange County Lincoln Club.

Hesperia Measure M“Enough is enough,” the OC Lincoln Club writes in its voter guide. “Taxes should not be raised on working class consumers just to pay for the bloated compensation packages of the public employees who are supposed to serve them.”

The California Republican Taxpayers Association happily supports raising taxes on working families for the bargain-basement endorsement price of $175.

Support for School Bond Measures

In addition to tax increases, the phony taxpayer group has endorsed multiple school and construction bond measures, which are frequently opposed by the state GOP and legitimate taxpayer groups.

This November, Manteca voters will consider Measure G, a $159 million school bond on behalf of the Manteca Unified School District. According to state disclosure reports, a $608 payment secured the phony group’s endorsement.

It’s a similar story in Hesperia, where voters are considering Measure M, a $207 million bond measure to improve school district facilities. Support from the California Republican Taxpayers Association — bought for $582.

In Orange County, the local Republican Party has aggressively opposed new school bonds, including Fullerton’s Measure I and Orange Unified Measure K. But, proponents of both measures needn’t fear the party. They purchased support from the California Republican Taxpayers Association: $1,120 for Measure I and $1,525 for Measure K.

Green, Democratic candidates buy support from “GOP” group

Michael FeinsteinIt’s the same story in local candidate races across the state.

In the City of Lake Forest, Scott Voigts and Andrew Hamilton have been endorsed by the OC GOP, while Tom Cagley paid $822 for the phony endorsement.

In Newport Beach, the OC GOP has backedDiane Dixon, Duffy Duffield, Scott Peotter and Kevin Muldoon, not Rush Hill who paid $1,412 for the phony endorsement.

In Brea, Steve Vargas and Cecilia Hupp are both endorsed by local Republicans for city council; opponent Mike Kim paid $460 for the California Republican Taxpayers Association’s endorsement.

In the City of Laguna Niguel, Elaine Gennawey and John Jennings have the endorsement of the OC GOP, while Matt Clements and Fred Minegar paid $600 for the deceptive endorsement.

Some endorsements are particularly egregious cases of deception. In Santa Monica, Michael Feinstein, a spokesman and co-founder of the Green Party of California, is listed as the choice of the “California Republican Taxpayers Association.”

The California Republican Taxpayers Association is willing to endorse Democrats, too, such as Gila Jones, a candidate for the Capistrano Unified School District. Jones, a registered Democrat, has been endorsed by the Democratic Party of Orange County. In 2010, Jones was theDemocratic nominee for the 38th Senate District against GOP State Senator Mark Wyland. Yet, GOP voters will see her listed as the choice of the California Republican Taxpayers Association thanks to her $340 check to the group. Her opponent, Ellen Addonizio, has been endorsed by the OC GOP.

The misleading endorsements have drawn the ire of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the state’s leading grassroots taxpayer group.

“In the current election cycle, a group we’ve never heard of before is selling its endorsement in favor of local tax hikes and left leaning candidates,” Jon Coupal, president of the state’s preeminent anti-tax group, wrote in his weekly commentary at the Flash Report. “The so-called “California Republican Taxpayers Association” has no bona fides as a legitimate taxpayer association.”

Failure to comply with slate mailer law

The First Amendment appropriately protects slate mailers as a form of political speech and association. Courts have repeatedly thrown out attempts by state and local governments to limit slate mailers. Consequently, slate mailers operate in the Wild West of campaign finance laws.

But, the California Republican Taxpayers Association has somehow managed to run afoul of the few laws governing slate mailers. One of the few state laws governing slate mailers still on the books is a mandatory disclaimer. According to the California Government Code, slate mailers must include a specific 80-word disclaimer, which reads:


THIS DOCUMENT WAS PREPARED BY (name of slate mailer organization or committee formed to support or oppose one or more ballot measures), NOT AN OFFICIAL POLITICAL PARTY ORGANIZATION. Appearance in this mailer does not necessarily imply endorsement of others appearing in this mailer, nor does it imply endorsement of, or opposition to, any issues set forth in this mailer. Appearance is paid for and authorized by each candidate and ballot measure which is designated by an *.

Multiple slate mailer samples published on the California Republican Taxpayers Association’s website show a substantially shorter disclaimer– just 52 words. One sample from the June 2014 primary reads:

THIS DOCUMENT WAS PREPARED BY CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN TAXPAYERS’ ASSOCIATION VOTER GUIDE, NOT AN OFFICIAL PARTY ORGANIZATION. Appearance in this mailer does not necessarily imply endorsement of other candidates or ballot measurers (sic) in this mailer. Appearance is paid for and authorized by each candidate and ballot measure which is designated by an *.

The organization’s substantially shorter disclaimer – with 35 percent fewer words – makes it smaller on the page, and thus, is less likely to be noticed. According to the organization, these mailers are “carefully constructed” to persuade voters.

“The carefully constructed Voter Guide strategy maximizes your exposure to those people most likely to vote,” the slate mailer claims on its website, “and presents you as the best Republican Taxpayer-approved candidate for your race.”

In other words, there’s no need to obtain the party’s endorsement, because, the slate mailer “presents you as the best Republican Taxpayer-approved candidate for your race.”

Late filings with FPPC

Although the California Republican Taxpayers Association’s voter guide is “carefully constructed,” it’s less careful with its compliance with state campaign finance disclosure laws.

The state’s campaign finance disclosure system, Cal Access, shows the slate mailer organization has repeatedly filed late disclosure reports. The organization’s 2014 semi-annual disclosure report, which is required to be submitted by July 31, was posted on the state’s website on August 14.

FPPC Violation Late FilingSimilarly, the pre-election report, which was due on October 6, wasn’t posted on the state’s disclosure website until October 14.

CA GOP retains right to use “Republican”

Just like business trademarks or corporate brands, political parties consider their name a precious commodity. The California Republican Party’s bylaws reserve the common law right to control the use of the “Republican” brand in California.

“The Committee retains the common law right to control and authorize the use of the party name ‘Republican’ in connection with official political activity within the State of California, in particular any use that in any way implies, states or misrepresents an affiliation or relationship with, or endorsement by, the California Republican Party,” the bylaws state.

The California Republican Taxpayers Association isn’t chartered by the state party and thus does not have permission from the California Republican Party to use the words “California Republican” in their title and seal.

In a recent mailer, Bartlett’s supervisorial campaign, created an official-looking seal in an effort to convince voters she has the party’s endorsement. The OC GOP has backed her opponent Ming. Bartlett’s campaign offers a unique glimpse into the organization.

Lisa Bartlett 12kThis year, Bartlett’s campaign consultants, Venture Strategic, Inc., have paid the California Republican Taxpayers Association $12,006 in fees. Jeff Corless, the managing partner of Venture Strategic, Inc., also serves as a partner of Frontline Strategies. In the first quarter of 2014, according to state campaign finance disclosure forms, the California Republican Taxpayers Association PAC paid Frontline Strategies $15,000 in consulting fees.

Abel Maldonado praises deceptive slate mailer

Despite the money transfers between companies and political campaigns, the organization boasts high-profile supporters, including a prominent California Republican.

“There is no other voter guide I value more than California Republican Taxpayers Association Voter Guide,” former Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado states on the organization’s website.

In June 2006, Maldonado was prominently featured on the slate mailer during his contested Republican primary for state controller. A fitting endorsement — during his time in the state legislature, Maldonado voted for billions of dollars in higher taxes.

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