The fight between San Diego hoteliers and attorney Cory Briggs continues on.
Briggs, whose client San Diegans for Open Government sued the city and San Diego's Tourism Marketing District for what they claimed is an illegal tax, authored Measure D. If passed by voters, the transit occupancy tax would be increased, with the revenues going to the general fund; only a small portion would be set aside for hoteliers to spend promoting San Diego.
The measure would also ensure that no public money is spent on a downtown stadium and simultaneously reserve the land under Qualcomm Stadium for dedicated parkland and extension campuses for San Diego State and University of California at San Diego.
Of course, Measure D has its opponents — namely, San Diego's hotel industry.
Beginning on October 10, the San Diego Lodging Industry Association's political action committee submitted the first of three donations to the San Diego County Taxpayers Association's political action committee for a total of $80,000. The donations were followed by a $43,350 donation from Bartell Hotels. The money would pay for a series of radio advertisements in opposition to Measure D.
(The taxpayers association had previously decided to remain neutral on Measure D and put their money toward defeating Measure C, the proposition pushed by San Diego Chargers owners in hopes of getting a taxpayer-subsidized stadium in downtown. Several of the No on C supporters were in support of Measure D.)
But the association's anti–Measure D ads were problematic, says Briggs, who claimed they violated campaign laws by failing to disclose who paid for the ads (read: hoteliers). Also, the taxpayers association did not file the necessary paperwork indicating they were launching an opposition campaign to Measure D.
On October 28, Briggs sent a letter to the radio stations that aired the ads, informing them that the ads violated California’s Political Reform Act.
"Consequently, the radio ads and their inaccurate disclaimer constitute illegal campaign activities. You are therefore requested to stop running the ads until either [San Diego County Taxpayer Association's political action committee] has filed all appropriate campaign disclosures in support of expenditures against Measure D with the appropriate elections official, the ads have been revised to remove all references to Measure D, or, the ads’ disclaimer has been revised to reflect that the majority of the money provided to pay for the ads came from the hotel industry."
The treasurer for the taxpayers association's political arm, April Boling, followed with a letter of her own. In it, Boling claims that the taxpayers association's political action committee is registered with the county and state as a "General Purpose Recipient Committee." Thus, the committee is different from other dedicated opposition campaigns in that it is allowed to oppose numerous measures and candidates.
While unable to comment on this particular issue, San Diego ethics commissioner Stacey Fulhorst, provided the necessary campaign laws.
And according to campaign finance laws, while the taxpayers association's committee is allowed to oppose a number of measures, it is required to file disclosure forms with the city within 24 hours of the ad running.
"A County general purpose committee that spends $1,000 or more to disseminate a campaign ad that supports or opposes a City of San Diego candidate or measure must file a disclosure form (Form 496) with the City Clerk within 24 hours if the communication is disseminated within 90 days of an election."
The taxpayers association has not yet filed those forms.
In regard to Briggs's assertion that the ads violated campaign laws by failing to disclose the source of financial backing, the laws only pertain to committees that are formed with the sole intent to oppose or support a candidate or measure.
Revenue-source disclosures, says Fulhorst, "are not required on ads paid for by 'general purpose' committees."