Nation’s Strongest Conflict of Interest Initiative Upheld By Court Against Politicians’ Challenge

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Landmark Voter-Approved Initiatives Ban Public Officials From Taking Campaign Cash, Gifts or Jobs from City Contractors

Santa Monica — Two landmark voter-approved ballot initiatives that are the toughest conflict of interest measures in the nation are in effect today after court challenges to the initiatives were struck down by the 2nd District Court of Appeal late Friday. Santa Monica and Pasadena politicians spent four years and tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting the political reform initiatives, which were put on the ballot by the Oaks Project, the volunteer arm of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).

The initiatives target the corruptive influence of money in politics by barring public officials from accepting campaign contributions, gifts or a job from any entity to whom they awarded a public benefit — such as a city contract, a lucrative franchise or the purchase of property.

“Voters approved the strongest conflict of interest initiative in the nation to fight corruption in four California cities and it’s time that protection was carried statewide. All local politicians should be banned from accepting campaign cash, gifts or jobs from any company they award tax money. Only then can we end the appearance of corruption that political favors and revolving door jobs inevitably leave with the public,” said Carmen Balber, consumer advocate with FTCR.

Elected Officials Use Public Money to Stop Voter-Approved Law

After voters approved the initiatives with significant margins — on the November 2000 ballot in San Francisco and Santa Monica, and the March 2001 ballot in Pasadena and Claremont — elected officials refused to implement them in every city except San Francisco. Santa Monica even sued itself in its effort to invalidate the reform measure. FTCR is exploring avenues to require city politicians to repay the taxpayer money spent to challenge the citizen-sponsored conflict of interest initiatives.

The Court of Appeal ruled in the Oaks Project’s favor in all cases. It found:
– The city of Santa Monica could not legitimately sue itself in order to invalidate the voter-approved initiative measure.
– The city of Pasadena violated the Oaks Project’s first amendment right to petition when it sued to overturn the initiative, and a superior court judge’s ruling against the initiative should be thrown out.

“City officials are elected to represent the public interest. Instead, Santa Monica and Pasadena politicians spent the last four years trying to nullify the voters’ will at the ballot. They should be held personally responsible for the tens of thousands in tax dollars they spent to unsuccessfully fight this voter-approved conflict of interest reform,” said Balber.

In a multi-city, all-volunteer effort, members of the Oaks Project gathered nearly 70,000 signatures to put the measures before voters.

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Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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