Does the FPPC consider a Los Osos CSD "newsletter" to be "campaign material?"
Hello Communications Office of the Fair Political Practices Commission,
I'm a blogger in San Luis Obispo County, and I'm researching a story involving the Los Osos Community Services District, and I read on your web site, at this link:
... "What types of things constitute a violation of the (Political Reform Act)," and one of the "violations" listed is, "campaign mass mailing at public expense."
For my on-going story, I have a very fact-specific question involving that exact point: "campaign mass mailing at public expense."
First, some back-story.
Three years ago, on my blog, at this link:
... I exposed how the Los Osos Community Services District, in "Summer 2000," mailed a "newsletter" to every property owner in Los Osos, and, in that newsletter, the LOCSD absolutely raves about a huge public works project that the District was proposing at the time, and how "on schedule" and "affordable" the project is.
However, according to the newsletter, to fund the so-called "on schedule" project, the town's property owners needed to vote to pass a property tax assessment, and, as you'll read in the newsletter (that I have attached to this email as a pdf file), all 7-pages of the newsletter are dedicated exclusively, to 1) hyping the District's proposed project, 2) sell voters on passing the assessment, and 3) describing the dire consequences that would result if the assessment election were to fail.
Quotes in the newsletter include:
"When it comes time to vote and create the new assessment district, Los Osos residents should seize the opportunity to determine their own destiny with a positive vote."
"Continued community support will be important throughout the implementation process. Please support this project. It will in fact be "cheaper, better, faster."
Here's the screenshot:
- - -
- - -
Other glowing quotes in the newsletter include:
"The benefits (of passing the assessment) are not limited to just wastewater treatment. When completed, the project will... lift the building moratorium... (and) eliminate the need for expensive imported drinking water."
"Many retirees living in Los Osos, as well as other residents living on fixed incomes, can not afford additional large monthly fees. The Los Osos Community Services District is committed to building an effective, affordable wastewater project."
"(If the wastewater project assessment is passed)... homeowners will be able to remodel and expand their existing homes to provide for older parents, growing families, and other needs. Vacant property owners will finally be able to build on their land."
... and many, many others.
The newsletter also goes on to explain the importance of the assessment election, and even lists an assessment election "timeline."
The newsletter reads:
"Yes. For the assessment district to be formed (to fund the "cheaper, better, faster," "affordable" project), 50% of the votes must approve the project," and then the newsletter lists the schedule for the assessment election.
It also describes the dire consequences that would occur to Los Osos property owners if they did not vote to approve the assessment.
"What happens if the assessment vote fails?
The regulatory agencies could levy fines up to $10,000 per day per property. Los Osos could lose control of the project to the County. If we don't vote for our own project, we will get someone else's, at a much higher cost.
Here's the screenshot:
- - -
- - -
Now, over the past few years, I've exposed three huge bombshells involving the LOCSD's "Summer 2000" newsletter.
1) As I first exposed at this link:
... according to the LOCSD's own documents, at the time the District produced, and then mailed their "Summer 2000" newsletter, the so-called "project" that they rave about as "affordable" and "on schedule," had already completely failed some six months earlier, and District officials were fully aware that the fake "project" described in their newsletter had already failed at the time they produced their "Summer 2000" newsletter -- a newsletter that states that their fake, already-failed, non-project was "on schedule."
I asked an attorney if the newsletter described in the above scenario -- where a government agency, in an effort to sway an election, produces, and then mails a newsletter, where the agency is fully aware that the information contained in the newsletter is false -- constitutes fraud. He told me, "Yes, that is fraud."
2) The second bombshell is that the fraud-based newsletter accomplished its sole purpose: It worked. It (along with other campaign tactics employed by the LOCSD) went on to successfully trick Los Osos property owners into passing the assessment (in early 2001) for the District's fake project, a fake project that the District was fully aware had already failed (and, in fact, never even existed in the first place. Documents now show that the District's fake project proved to be nothing more than fabricated numbers, and made-up documents. It was all just a ruse for a small handful of people to make money, including some Los Osos CSD Board members at the time, and that's why it was so important for the 2000 LOCSD Board to get the assessment passed for their fake project, so they could make a lot of money off of it, which is exactly what happened.)
3) The third bombshell that I've exposed, is that the now-passed, fraud-based assessment for the Los Osos CSD's fake, made-up, non-"project" described in their fraud-based "Summer 2000" newsletter, and that Los Osos property owners were tricked into approving, is (present tense) a 30-year bond assessment that has "more than 4,000" Los Osos property owners funding the fraud on their property tax bills until the year 2033/34, at about $230/year, per property, with many of the "more than 4,000" being "retirees... as well as other residents living on fixed incomes, (that) can not afford additional large monthly fees." (That was actually the one truth found in the District's fraud-based newsletter.)
The following is a screenshot from a Los Osos property owner's 2013 property tax bill. The line "LOCSD WASTE TREATMNT 225.52" is the exact fraud-based assessment described in the District's fraudulent newsletter, and that will appear on "more than 4,000" Los Osos property tax bills for the next 17-18 years.
In the context of 2016, it's just stunning: The assessment that the Los Osos CSD lied about in their "Summer 2000" newsletter, is the exact fraud-based assessment -- "LOCSD WASTE TREATMNT" -- that "more than 4,000" Los Osos property owners are now stuck funding for the next 17 years, for a fake, non-project, that will never exist.
And that's why it is so important for my overall story today that I get this question answered by the staff of the FPPC:
In the opinion of the staff of the FPPC, is the Los Osos CSD's fraudulent "Summer 2000" newsletter -- that was produced and mailed (presumably with Los Osos taxpayer funds) -- also "campaign mass mailing at public expense?"
In other words, I'm hoping that your staff will just simply read the attached newsletter, and render a quick decision -- a quick, "yes," or, "no" answer on whether the staff of the FPPC considers the Los Osos CSD's "Summer 2000" newsletter to be campaign material?
The entire process, including a reply email, should take about a half-hour on your end.
For my story, I can already show that the newsletter, according to an attorney I contacted, is fraud (obviously), which, in turn, means that the 30-year assessment described in the newsletter is fraud-based, but what I don't know is if the FPPC staff considers the newsletter to also be "campaign material," which, according to the FPPC's web site, would also "constitute a violation of the (Political Reform Act)," which would be another excellent scoop for my blog.
Then I could report that the LOCSD's "Summer 2000" newsletter was not only fraud, but also a violation of California's Political Reform Act, according to the FPPC.
[Although, if you think about it, what else would it be? Clearly, the only reason the District produced the newsletter was to trick voters, which must make the newsletter pure campaign material, right? So, what else could it be other than "campaign material?"]
Again, all I'm looking for with this email is for the staff of the FPPC to render a quick decision on whether they think the Los Osos CSD's "Summer 2000" newsletter is "campaign material," or whether you consider it to be purely "informational?"
It's very important for my overall story that I get that question answered.
If you have any questions, please just ask.
P.S: This email posted to my blog, SewerWatch, at this link:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~