The San Diego Association of Governments has twice misled voters about how much money the agency could raise through tax increases.
SANDAG’s pattern of behavior raises a simple question: Is it legal?
Pretty much, three election law experts said.
Some states have passed laws specifically prohibiting false statements during campaigns. When those laws have been challenged, though, courts have knocked them down on First Amendment grounds.
“From a legal point of view, courts – wrongly, in my opinion—have backed away from saying that you can fine or prosecute people for false speech,” said David Schultz, who teaches election law at the University of Minnesota. “What people would argue is, there is a First Amendment right to lie, and voters can sort it out.”
The issue for SANDAG has now spanned two elections. In 2004, the agency told voters a TransNet extension could bring in $14.2 billion for regional transportation needs. The agency had formally adopted an economic forecast 11 months earlier that concluded the half-cent sales tax would in fact raise just $12.9 billion, but the agency went to voters with the higher figure anyway.
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It may be legal, but it's sure not going to help with future ballot measures. I think everyone is going to pay close attention to what's being proposed or, more likely, simply vote "No".
I have always thought that nearly all politicians lie 99% of the time. So why would anyone believe it would be illegal for them to do so. After all the politicians also make the laws.
Interesting article - thanks. For future elections, I'm voting down anything that asks for money - local, State, and federal. It's a shame that we can't believe what these agencies are saying. Y'all can kiss your bond requests goodbye....