Jay-Z, John Legend videos land Proposition 47 camp in hot water

A video containing footage of Jay-Z used to support Proposition 47 is the subject of a campaign penalty. The entertainment mogul is seen here with his wife, Beyoncé.
(Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images)

The group that sponsored Proposition 47, the voter-approved initiative that reduces penalties for drug possession and other nonviolent crimes, has agreed to pay a $2,500 penalty for publishing two videos on YouTube without legally required campaign disclosures.

The one-minute videos included appearances by soul singer John Legend and rapper Jay-Z, and were part of the successful campaign to approve the ballot measure.

A state ethics agency found that the Yes on Prop. 47 committee, Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools, failed to include a disclosure of its name on the videos or list its two highest donors of $50,000 or more, both of which are required by law.


The campaign committee is supported by donations from the ACLU and George Soros’ Open Policy Center.

A stipulation order released Monday by the California Fair Political Practices Commission shows that Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools acknowledged the videos appeared without required disclosures, and agreed to pay the $2,500 penalty. The maximum by law would have been $5,000 per violation.

The videos were posted to YouTube by Artists for 47, which on a website paid for by the Yes on 47 campaign describes itself as a “coalition of artists committed to the passage of Proposition 47.”

James Harrison, a San Leandro-based lawyer who answered questions Monday on behalf of Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools, said the videos were produced by Michael Skolnik, political director for hip-hop label owner Russell Simmons and who also organized Artists for 47. Harrison said neither Jay-Z nor Legend was compensated for their appearances or use of their material.


For the Record

Nov. 10, 6:05 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled Michael Skolnik’s last name as Skolnick.



The order notes that the two Artists for 47 videos were altered Oct. 24 to include the missing disclosures after the commission’s enforcement division contacted the campaign. A third YouTube video posted by the same group, featuring poet Natalie Patterson, as of Monday afternoon contained no such disclosure, though it urged a vote in favor of the ballot initiative.

Harrison said Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools did not pay for the third video.

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