Lobbyists can't kill measure before it passes, judge says

By Andy Furillo, Court Reporter

A lobbyist group's lawsuit to kill a ballot measure that wants the influence industry pay for an experiment in public campaign financing has been kicked out of Sacramento Superior Court.

Judge Michael P. Kenny, in a ruling last month, said the Institute of Governmental Advocates and other plaintiffs can't pursue the action until and unless voters approve the measure.

The lobbyist plaintiffs, meanwhile, have filed a writ in the California 3rd District Court of Appeal to try to knock the measure off the June 2010 ballot.

The proposal, which the Legislature placed on the ballot, would require lobbyists, lobbying firms and lobbyist employers to pay $700 each to fund California's campaigns for the Secretary of State elections in 2014 and 2018.

Lobbyists say the move unfairly burdens their industry and restricts their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

"We're hopeful the appellate court will see the wisdom of our constitutional argument," said Jackson Gualco, Institute of Governmental Advocates president.

Derek Cressman, the Western states regional director for Common Cause, said the demurrer granted by Kenny on Nov. 20 and the vacating of Friday's court date on what was supposed to be a hearing on the merits of the suit, effectively terminates the lobbyists' effort. A federal judge also had previously dismissed an identical measure that the lobbyists had filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

"I think it's extremely unlikely they'll prevail on appeal," Cressman said. "If lobbyists had any shame, they'd be ashamed of filing a frivolous lawsuit of this sort to avoid paying a modest fee to fund a good government program. It's outlandish."

See the article on Sacramento Bee website

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