Of pettiness and Rules

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PETTY, PETTY, PETTY -- The Fair Political Practices Commission has announced settlements with two Ventura Democratic Party organizations in which the groups have agreed to pay fines of $1,500 and $1,250 for violations involving slate mailers.

You can read the FFPC staff findings against the Democratic Club of Ventura here and against the Ventura Blue Committee here.

Reading the factual analysis of the FPPC staff, one could conclude that one of the violations may have misled some voters because at least some of the mailers did not include an asterisk next to the names of candidates who paid money to have their names on the mailers.

There has been a problem in the past with slate mailer organizations that intentionally try to deceive voters by selling space to candidates and then including them on mailers that are inherently deceptive. A Democrat running for nonpartisan office, for instance, might pay to have his name included on a mailer that includes recommendations for a Republican presidential or senatorial candidate, or supporters of a conservative ballot measure might pay to have a Yes recommendation included on a mailer that also endorses top Democratic officeholders. There's a clear reason why the asterisk is required, and its absence, even if inadvertent, is an appropriate cause for an FPPC enforcement action.

But in the case of the Democratic Club of Ventura, it's impossible to say that any voter was misled in any way by its failure to properly include the required "notice to voters.". That violation occured because the disclosure of the source of the mailer wasn't expressed in precisely the manner prescribed by law. FPPC investigators note
that the mailers did in fact "have identifying information that would allow voters to identify the source of the mailer."

Why did the FPPC involve itself in such petty matters? Because it received a complaint and was required to follow up. And since there was a technical violation, a fine ensued.

Internal squabbling has gone on among Democratic activists in the county for years. Perhaps all those involved might want to take a deep breath now and ask themselves how the few precious dollars local Democratic organizations have would be better spent: on efforts to communicate with voters, or by paying fines to the FPPC for minor violations?

RULES, RULES, RULES -- Ventura County will be well represented in deciding the rules by which the Legislature operates this year. Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara has been appointed to the Senate Rules Committee and freshman Assemblyman Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita has been named vice-chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee.

Jackson represents western Ventura County, and Wilk's district includes Simi Valley.

Those committees are important because they decide which bills will be referred to which committees. They also grant rule waiters and handle the personnel matters of the two houses. In the Senate, the Rules Committee has added power because it is the panel that conducts hearings and makes recommendations on the confirmation of the governor's appointments to various boards and commissions.

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95 percent accurate
Over the last 25 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 24 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
about Timm Herdt
Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at therdt@vcstar.com