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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS BALLOT MEASURES : Fraud Charges Traded on Redistricting Propositions

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Democratic opponents of Propositions 118 and 119 took to the airwaves Wednesday with a television commercial that blasts the two redistricting initiatives as frauds backed by politicians and big corporations.

But sponsors of the two measures contend that the real fraud is being committed by lawmakers opposed to the initiatives who jealously are trying to guard their own power.

The new commercial is reminiscent of the Democratic media attack against a similar redistricting measure in 1984. Afterward, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) boastfully described his side’s successful advertising campaign as a “con job.”

Those 1984 ads featured actor Jack Lemmon and used an anti-politician theme, even though the spots were sponsored and paid for by politicians themselves.

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Similarly, the campaign against Propositions 118 and 119 is financed in part by big business and run by politicians, but attacks those very interests to capitalize on voter distrust of legislators and those who lobby them in Sacramento.

The latest ad also features actor Lemmon, showing him in a law library setting as he tells viewers that “politicians and corporations are spending millions” to pass the two measures in the June 5 election. After reading from a dictionary definition of reapportionment, Lemmon pauses and says, “Big corporations bankrolling this double talk? Yeah. What they really care about is power.”

The spot closes with the word “fraud” exploding over the ballot descriptions of Propositions 118 and 119.

Responding to the ad, Bob Marks, a spokesman for the supporters of the initiatives, said, “Anyone who has followed the process knows that the only fraud going on is the campaign against” the measures.

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The fight over the two measures is one of the hottest this campaign season because it will decide who controls the way political district lines are redrawn, a task performed every 10 years to equalize representation after the census. Under current law, leaders of the Legislature’s majority party, in this case the Democrats, can draw the lines with only a few general rules in the state Constitution and the threat of the governor’s veto to guide them.

Proposition 118 would require that any redistricting plan be approved by two-thirds votes in both houses of the Legislature, signed by the governor and ratified by the voters. And Proposition 119 would create an independent commission to handle the redistricting task.

Both measures include a set of strict guidelines designed to create compact districts that more closely follow city and county lines and respect geographical boundaries. The initiatives also would require that as many districts as possible be “competitive,” so they could be won by either party.

Proposition 118 has been financed largely with money from Republicans, including about $500,000 from the Republican National Committee. Proposition 119 was put on the ballot with the help of large donations from Chevron, Hewlett Packard and TransAmerica Insurance Co.

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The fight against the two measures also has been backed by corporate money. A campaign committee headed by Assembly Speaker Brown had raised more than $500,000 as of March 17, with much of that coming from oil companies, land developers, the chemical industry, alcohol and tobacco firms and insurance interests.

On Wednesday, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters joined the opposition to the initiatives, saying the measures would endanger the environment by decreasing the number of legislators with districts that include a piece of the coast.

The measures’ sponsors disputed that claim.


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