Paul Jacob

Then, the wording of the proposal was given to city council members just two hours before it was voted on and passed. There was absolutely no opportunity for the public to speak out to their so-called representatives on the council. One can surmise from this the value the R Conspiracy places on citizen input.

Moreover, even though the measure contained a number of ethics provisions, it bypassed the city’s Ethics Commission. Wonder why?

It also bypassed the city’s voter-enacted Neighborhood Councils — a violation of the city charter. (You can bet there won’t be any “activist” judges to enforce this provision, however.)

What did the lobbyist law firm come up with? A monstrosity that Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said, “weakens current ethics laws, places the city in legal peril and is misleading to voters.”

The legal peril comes from the fact that Proposition R joins separate subjects: ethics changes and a change to term limits. This conjunction violates the state’s single-subject law for ballot measures.

Further — and tellingly — the ethics changes are simple ordinances that could be passed by the council without going to the people; term limits, on the other hand, requires a charter amendment. Highly unusual. And very questionable, constitutionally.

Neal Donner, a citizen of L.A., filed suit on single subject grounds and the U.S. Term Limits Foundation funded that lawsuit. The court struck Prop R from the ballot, agreeing with the challengers, but a California court of appeals stayed the decision, keeping R on the ballot. This past week, Donner and U.S. Term Limits announced they would not seek to overturn a vote of the people. So that if Prop R wins, they’ll drop the suit. Another L.A. citizen has since said he would file suit on these same grounds.

The ballot title has also faced litigation. Written by politicians, it is less than forthright: “Council Member Term Limits Of Three Terms; City Lobbying, Campaign Finance And Ethics Laws. Charter Amendment And Ordinance Measure.” Where’s the mention that there already are term limits of two terms?

The longer ballot summary, less likely to be read, nevertheless reads slightly better. It says the measure “changes” term limits. But not how. A lawsuit by people working with the anti-Prop R committee, called Not PropR, asked the court to require the title to honestly address the issue by using the word “extend” or “lengthen.” Again, the trial court agreed and ordered a change, but the council, using taxpayer funds, appealed. The court of appeals reversed the decision, saying essentially that the ballot title was close enough.

Strange, the Chamber’s website has that very wording, “Extending term limits.” Funny, too, the Chamber’s website offers this rationale for weakening the limits: “It will also provide us with a greater return on the investment we make in them during the first few years of service.” Indeed.

City Attorney Delgadillo wrapped it up best: “The people of Los Angeles have been cheated.”

Around the country, the League of Women Voters has been most active in suing to overturn votes of the people for term limits. The Chamber has been at the forefront of the targeted sneak attack.

In 2004, the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce ran a campaign to gut term limits built around a ballot title Arkansas’s governor called “misleading and dishonest.” Voters crushed that measure 70 to 30 percent. In Michigan, the Chamber sought to add phony ethics “sweeteners” to try to get voters to go along with weakening term limits, much as they have in L.A. That effort, once outed in the media, was dropped.

The Prop R plotters are outspending the opposition by approximately 200 to 1, mailing 62-color, glossy ads that even city council members admit are “a little misleading.” In one mailing, former Mayor Riordan disingenuously says that Proposition R will mean that “City Council members cannot serve for life,” knowing full well that they are already unable to do so.

When reporters asked Jason Lyon, a member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and a leader of Not PropR, to comment on the other side’s latest mass mailing, Lyon responded, “Do you want to go through it lie by lie?”

Most Americans have come to know politicians as less than trustworthy. But what kind of interests back the sleaziest measure in America? Groups once as trusted as the Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters can no longer be trusted. They, too, have been corrupted.

Will Los Angeles voters fall for the slick trick that is Prop R?

The answer will determine whether the Chamber and the League rank among the country’s most successful con artists. Or just run-of-the-mill dishonest losers.

We’ll find out Tuesday.

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.