The San Francisco Chronicle urged Cal. Attorney General Jerry Brown to "clear the air" today in an editorial about his now-resigned spokesman's secret tape recording of conversations with reporters. The issue came to light when Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci realized the AG's office had secretly taped her interview with some of the AG's top attorneys while reporting on the AG's switcheroo in his official summary of a Merucry Insurance-sponsored ballot initiative. Consumer Watchdog analyzed the ballot measure and showed that the AG had removed references to insurance rate hikes that he properly included in a sumamry of a previous and substantively identical measure a few months earlier.
It is illegal in California to secretly tape record anyone in a private conversation such as a telephone call, and the Chronicle makes the point that thestate's top cop has to turn over every stone when when someone in his office appears to break the law:
...the elected attorney general - with ambitions to return to the
governor's office - has an obligation to fully clear the air about this
breach of the law on his watch by people he hired.
As the state's chief law officer, Brown has an obligation to get to
the bottom of this. He needs to investigate the extent of illegal
recordings performed by his office - who did what and when, and who
knew about it? - and make public his findings.
We agree. That's why we asked the AG to make public all records of tape reorded conversations in a Public Records Act request last week.
It's worth noting, as CalBuzz did when it called for the spokesman's resignation, that while secret taping is odious enough, it is made worse by the fact that it seemed to be part of an effort to stifle the press from reporting on an issue involving public policy (the Official summary of a ballot measure) and a donor (Mercury Insurance):
That a public official so off-handedly violated state law on such a
sensitive subject is unacceptable. That the official works for the
chief law enforcement officer of California makes it outrageous. That
the call focused on a corporation that both had sensitive business
before Brown’s office and had made a major campaign contribution to him
puts it beyond the pale. [CalBuzz]