FROM:   Kim Alexander, CVF President
DATE:   March 5, 2001
RE:   Landmark disclosure case goes before CA Supreme Court

Hi Folks,

This Wednesday, March 7 at 9 a.m. in San Francisco the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a landmark political disclosure case, the outcome of which may profoundly impact the ability of California voters to know who the true messengers are of political campaign mailers.

Longtime CVF-NEWS subscribers may recall past postings to this list regarding this case, Griset vs. FPPC. To refresh your memory, the plaintiff, Daniel Griset, was a 1988 candidate for a Santa Ana City Council seat who sent out five political mailers to voters in his district under a ficticious committee name in which he attacked his opponent. When the state's disclosure watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission, fined Griset for failing to comply with California's mass mailing disclosure law, Griset contested the fine on the grounds that he had the right to anonymous political speech, and the case went all the way to the California Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the FPPC.

However, due to a technicality and subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decision in the McIntyre anonymous speech case, Griset was able to revive his case and brought it before California's 4th District Court of Appeal, which agreed with Mr. Griset in a January 1999 decision. In response to that ruling, the FPPC asked the California Supreme Court to review the Griset case, and the California Voter Foundation sent a letter to the court urging them to take the case. In May 1999 the state supreme court agreed to review the lower court's decision, which was a major victory in itself because the court takes very few cases every year. The case is now set for hearing before the court this week.

If the California Supreme Court finds in favor of the FPPC it will be reaffirming the state's mass mailing disclosure law, which requires campaign committee ID disclosure on mass mailings of 200 or more pieces. If the court finds in favor of Mr. Griset, it will clear the way for any political campaign to send out misleading campaign mailers and attack ads without having to identify themselves.

This case poses a serious threat to the recent advancements made in Internet disclosure of campaign money, since without a committee name or ID number it would be difficult, if not impossible, for voters to follow the money and determine who is funding a political mail campaign. (It's important to note that current California law does in fact protect anonymous political speech for anyone who spends less than $1,000 or sends out fewer than 200 pieces of mail.)

If you'd like some additional background information on this important case, please see:

* The May 13, 1999 edition of CVF-NEWS, which includes CVF's Amicus Curiae letter to the Supreme Court:

* The FPPC's February 28, 2001 News Release: "State Supreme Court reviews constitutionality of identification requirement; Oral arguments scheduled March 7 in 10-year-old Griset case"

Journalists interested in covering this case can contact Sigrid Bathen or Melissa Mikesell at the FPPC for additional informaiton, (916) 322-7762.

We'll keep an eye out for any news stories covering Wednesday's oral arguments -- if you happen to see any please let us know.

-- Kim Alexander, California Voter Foundation, 916-325-2120,

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This page was first published on March 5, 2001 | Last updated on March 5, 2001
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