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Lawmaker Assails Democrats’ Use of Tax Funds to Fight Prop. 73

Times Staff Writer

A Republican co-author of the Proposition 73 campaign reform initiative said Wednesday it is “outrageous” that Democratic Assembly leaders are spending taxpayer funds to overturn a politically touchy feature of the voter-approved measure.

Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra) noted that San Francisco attorney Joe Remcho had been hired by the Democratic-controlled Assembly Rules Committee to defend the committee in a lawsuit challenging a provision that imposes strict new limitations on mass mailings by legislators at taxpayer expense.

But Johnson said at a news conference that the hiring of Remcho was never discussed or voted on by the Rules Committee, which is chaired by Assemblyman Tom Bane (D-Tarzana). He criticized using tax funds to pay Remcho for “fighting the will of the people.”

Johnson said that although the Assembly should be defending Proposition 73, because it isstate law, Remcho would be offering no defense and would agree in court that the restrictions on mass mailings were unconstitutional. He charged that the Remcho law firm was hired “to take a dive.”

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Remcho, whose firm has represented the Assembly for at least seven years in various controversial lawsuits, confirmed that he would not defend the law because “we think it interferes with the traditional right and responsibility of legislators to communicate with constituents.”

Johnson, who sponsored Proposition 73 in the June election with Sens. Quentin Kopp (I-San Francisco) and Joseph Montoya (D-Whittier), called the effort to overturn the mailing restrictions “a classic collusive lawsuit.”

Top Republican and Democratic leaders of the Legislature and Gov. George Deukmejian opposed both Proposition 73 and a rival measure, Proposition 68.

The wide-ranging Proposition 73 enacted a series of far-reaching changes in the way campaigns must be conducted in California, including further restricting taxpayer-financed mass mailings by elected state officials, particularly legislators.

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Lawmakers long have sent the mailings to constituents as a means of communicating. But critics, including Johnson, have charged that the mailings are chiefly reelection propaganda and seldom offer information of substance to Californians.

Proposition 73 declares that “no newsletter or other mass mailing shall be sent at public expense.” It generally defines mass mailing as 200 or more substantially similar pieces of mail.

Last week, Assemblyman Johan Klehs (D-San Leandro) filed a lawsuit against the Assembly Rules Committee seeking to overturn the mass-mail provisions. Also named in the suit as respondents were the initiative’s sponsors: Johnson, Kopp and Montoya.

Remcho conceded that he discussed the lawsuit in advance with Klehs, although ostensibly they are on the opposite sides of the court case.

Bane said he left details of the lawsuit to Bob Connelly, chief administrative officer of the Rules Committee, and never discussed the matter with Remcho.

“That was kind of Klehs’ assignment,” Bane said.


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