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Campaign Advertising Lies

While reading Rough & Tumble (rtumble.com) this morning,* I came across a story in the Ventura County Star by Timm Herdt about a group, the California Senior Advocates League PAC (ID#1327236), which had released an ad in San Diego attacking Fran Pavley (D). Pavley is seeking reelection in State Senate District 27. The ad implies that as a member of the state government, Pavley has been enriching herself at the taxpayers’ expense. It doesn’t mention her opponent. So far, nothing new or unusual.

The add, though, contains a bald-faced lie. It says that Sen. Pavley earns $261,000 in tax-free salary each year. This statement is wrong on so many levels its incredible. First, the annual salary for a State Senator is $90,526 not $261,000. Second, like everyone else’s salary, hers is taxed by both the state and the federal governments. There are additional benefits that legislators receive, such as a per diem for travel expenses (she lives in Agoura Hills in SoCal but the legislature is in Sacramento), which might get you up to an annual “salary” of $261,000, but, again, she pays taxes on the money she makes.**

Then I checked yesterday’s pile of mail. In it was a campaign flyer from the California Senior Advocates League PAC attacking the Democratic candidate in my local State Senate district, Cathleen Galgiani. It has the same basic lie in bold print in multiple places. The lie is a little different because Galgiani is a member of the Assembly, so it says she makes $180,000 a year in tax-free salary. It’s a lie none the less.

So who is the California Senior Advocates League PAC? The name implies that it is a group looking out for the interests of seniors in California, right? Mr. Herdt tried to find out who they really were by calling their offices, but was rebuffed. Electiontrack.com shows all of the donors and amounts given to the League. The lion’s share of its money this cycle ($563,500 of $616,630) comes from the California Now Independent Expenditure Committee. (The California State Republican Party was a big contributor in the past, which should give you a clue about the organization and why it is targeting Democrats.) What is the California Now Independent Expenditure Committee? Mr. Herdt did the leg work here: It’s basically Chevron and Philip Morris by way of the California Chamber of Commerce.

So here we have at least two corporations seemingly funneling money through an ambiguously named organization to run ads that lie about candidates seeking office. Is it any wonder that most people hate the current campaign finance system? Wouldn’t it be better if Chevron and Philip Morris could spend the money directly–and we all knew about it–rather than having this byzantine labyrinth to navigate?

* Rough & Tumble aggregates California politics news stories from the major papers in California as well as some from out of state. If you at all care about California politics, Rough & Tumble should be on your morning reading list.

** There is a separate conversation to be had about the per diem that legislators receive. Personally, I think the legislature tends to abuse the per diem by gaming the system to continue receiving the benefit when it is clearly not in session. That would be a conversation worth having. The ad, though, conflates the two things in a way that is intentionally deceiving.

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  1. Jon
    September 19, 2013 at 12:12 pm | #1

    http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2013/statepacs/

    From which:

    PHILIP MORRIS USA INC., BY ITS SERVICE COMPANY, ALTRIA CLIENT SERVICES, INC.|$100000|2012-10-25|REFORM CALIFORNIA NOW INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE COMMITTEE
    PHILIP MORRIS USA INC., BY ITS SERVICE COMPANY, ALTRIA CLIENT SERVICES, INC.|$100000|2012-10-12|REFORM CALIFORNIA NOW INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE COMMITTEE
    PHILIP MORRIS USA INC., BY ITS SERVICE COMPANY, ALTRIA CLIENT SERVICES, INC.|$96702|2012-10-12|REFORM CALIFORNIA NOW INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE COMMITTEE
    PHILIP MORRIS USA INC., BY ITS SERVICE COMPANY, ALTRIA CLIENT SERVICES, INC.|$50000|2012-06-14|REFORM CALIFORNIA NOW INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE COMMITTEE
    PHILIP MORRIS USA INC., BY ITS SERVICE COMPANY, ALTRIA CLIENT SERVICES, INC.|$50000|2012-06-14|REFORM CALIFORNIA NOW INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE COMMITTEE
    PHILIP MORRIS USA INC.|$50000|2012-10-22|CALIFORNIA SENIOR ADVOCATES LEAGUE PAC
    PHILIP MORRIS USA INC.|$50000|2012-04-30|REFORM CALIFORNIA NOW INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE COMMITTEE

  1. September 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm | #1

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