Before the June primary, one of the topics discussed around the water cooler was the noticeable increase in voter outreach by our elected officials. Our elected leaders suddenly seemed interested in communicating with us and used many outreach methods including U.S. mail, e-mail, and social media.
As a public service, Calpeek, the Political Water Cooler, would like to remind candidates and campaign staff that it is illegal to use government resources (taxpayer money) on campaign activities. Violating the law can have serious consequences for anyone involved. As Michael J. Fox said in The American President “It’s always the guy in my job that ends up doing 18 months in Danbury minimum security prison.”
As an example of questionable use of taxpayer funds, we look at Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office expenditure of $204,700 for a new software email system. According to an investigation by the Sacramento Bee, the AG’s office wanted a new system in order to email millions of registered voters information about Bonta and the work of the office because the existing system was unable to manage the volume of emails. Voters began receiving the emails about two months before the June primary. Legal experts interviewed by the Bee believe the AG’s office did not technically violate the law. However, consultant Rob Stutzman suggested that “…an update to the Political Reform Act would be appropriate.”
None of those standing around the water cooler are attorneys; however, it is always good to remember that even an appearance of an illegal act erodes the people’s faith in government.