Paul Jacob

Are voters stupid? The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the city’s League of Women Voters apparently think so. Both groups are pushing Proposition R on L.A.’s ballot next Tuesday.

Prop R is the ultimate test of whether the slick power elite in the City of Angels can fool the people into voting to weaken the city’s eight-year term limits law by not telling voters what the measure actually does . . . by pretending that it “establishes” term limits already established.

Oh, it also adds phony ethics “reforms” that sound dandy in the ballot title, but will do nothing to end the corruption that even politicians and insiders in L.A. admit is widespread.

In fact, the thrust of the Prop R campaign amounts to saying, We are so corrupt that you voters must pass Prop R to clean up our cesspool . . . by letting us stay 50 percent longer in power.

Except, of course, that second part of the statement vanishes. Mustn’t tell the voters about the extended terms!

The key to this swindle’s success? (1) Hide the anti-term limits provision, conning as many voters as possible into believing the measure is pro-term limits, and (2) sell the phony ethics changes as an anti-lobbyist reform.

As former League President Cindy O’Connor, now running the campaign for R, put it: “We know for a fact that [weakening] term limits alone would fail.”

But the added ethics reforms in Proposition R merely super-size the sleaze. For instance, opponents of Prop R point out that it “allows lobbyists to remain hidden from public view until after winning favors for a client.”

The measure does ban lobbyists from buying travel for city council members. That’s good. But, of course, that’s already state law.

Prop R also mandates ethics training for city officials. Who can oppose that, right? But, again, such training is — you guessed it — already required.

From the beginning, R has been a backroom scam. The measure’s plotters violated any sense of ethical behavior, not to mention city law, in the way they placed it on the ballot. Right off, the Chamber and League found a law firm to draft this anti-lobbyist measure. The law firm chosen just happened to boast many of the big city’s biggest lobbyists as clients.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.