San Bernardino County’s deceitful Measure D campaign: Jon Coupal

“Politics ain’t beanbag” is a saying dating back to 1895 that is often used to justify dirty, or even illegal, campaign tactics. It reflects a win-at-any-cost mentality that many voters find disgusting. Regrettably, such tactics often succeed if, as Mark Twain said, a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on.

Three weeks ago, this column described how candidates for elective office will either obfuscate or outright lie about their intention to raise taxes. Progressive Democrats particularly will claim to be defenders of the working class only to vote for sales taxes or parcel taxes, both of which are highly regressive. But the problem is found in both political parties. Republican candidates are not immune from the temptation to dissemble about tax increases.

Other deceptive practices are found in initiative campaigns, either statewide or local proposals. A measure that claims to “protect taxpayers” or guarantees “strict accountability” is often a tax increase, or a bond measure that saddles voters with thirty years of debt payments. The campaign committees behind these anti-taxpayer measures frequently include the word “taxpayer” in them, like “Taxpayers for Common Sense” or “Taxpayers for Traffic Relief.”

Worse still are fake taxpayer groups, that are either temporary organizations or more permanent entities typically run by political consultants with no real interest in representing true taxpayer interests.

But at the top of the heap of devious tactics are campaigns that hijack the names or likeness of real taxpayer organizations or taxpayer heroes, which is what just happened in San Bernardino County.

In 2020, voters in San Bernardino County overwhelmingly approved Measure K, a citizens’ initiative that amended the County Charter to impose a one-term limit on members of the Board of Supervisors and put their salaries on par with the median household income in the county.

Special-interest groups and career politicians responded by attempting to undo Measure K in the Legislature and through legal action in the courts. To date, neither has succeeded. But, determined to thwart the will of the electorate, these same interests placed Measure D on this November’s ballot to trick San Bernardino voters by claiming the measure is good for taxpayers.

Measure D does not actually contain the taxpayer protections for which it attempts to claim credit. Thanks to Propositions 13 and 218, sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in 1978 and 1996, the people already have the right to vote on taxes, and Measure D’s requirement for a “four-fifths” vote of the Board of Supervisors to place taxes on the ballot is misleading. Under current law (Government Code 53724 [Prop. 62]), general taxes already require a two-thirds vote of the supervisors, and two-thirds of five is the same four-vote requirement. Measure D would change only the vote requirement for board approval of special-purpose taxes, increasing it from three votes to four.

In furtherance of the trickery, voters last week received a slick mailer emblazoned with images of Howard Jarvis and Ronald Reagan, urging a yes vote on Measure D and calling it “the new Prop. 13.” Not only is that political identity theft, but it also takes deception even higher into the stratosphere by implying that Howard Jarvis would back the career politicians’ move to take away something voters approved by a two-thirds majority (66.84%) when they passed Measure K only a couple of years ago.

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Moreover, the Measure D proponents have another problem. Their illegal use of a copyrighted image of Howard Jarvis has resulted in two “cease and desist” letters, one from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and another from a conservative advocacy group that received permission from HJTA to use the photo. In response, the proponents’ consultants have conceded that the use of the photo was wrong.

Nonetheless, the deceptive mailer might have fooled some voters who were swayed by the falsely implied support of HJTA. It is important therefore that voters fully inform themselves both about the proponents’ bait-and-switch campaign tactics as well as Measure D’s repeal of Measure K. For HJTA’s authentic recommendations and endorsements, visit

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

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