Caltrans work crew caught on camera stopping traffic to distribute campaign fliers opposed to Prop 6 gas tax repeal initiative
California state law expressly prohibits the use of taxpayer money to engage in a political campaign, but that’s exactly what happened on a busy California highway this week when a Caltrans work crew being paid taxpayer funds to work on a road project decided to use the project traffic calming process to stop traffic and hand out “No on Prop 6” campaign fliers. Traffic was delayed 18-24 minutes and motorists were furious with the clear violation of state law in using taxpayer monies to campaign.
Photos, video, and witness testimony of the incident was released at a press conference along with a Criminal Complaint alleging violation of numerous state and local laws. The campaign flier passed out clearly contains prohibited “express advocacy” language such as “Vote NO on Prop 6” and the Caltrans work crew member is caught on video admitting he was “working with Caltrans” and “They just told me to hand it out.”
“There is absolutely no grey area here, Caltrans is caught in blatant violation of California law that prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for campaign activities or advocacy,” declared Carl DeMaio, Chairman of Yes on Prop 6 Gas Tax Repeal Initiative. “This proves once again that Caltrans simply cannot be trusted to do what is right with our gas tax funds – they literally are using gas tax funds to support the distribution of campaign materials to raise the gas tax on working families,” DeMaio noted.
The incident occurred along State Route 78 in San Diego County between Julian and Ramona on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, between 7 am and 3 pm. Caltrans contract and task order records confirm that a road project was scheduled for that very stretch of highway. A Caltrans contractor assigned to the project was photographed at this site along with a Caltrans vehicle and supervisor. California state law prohibits the use of private contractors paid for by taxpayer funds for any political purpose.
“We demand an immediate investigation into this incident, we demand prosecution of the individuals involved, and we insist that the Governor instruct Caltrans to immediately cease any activities that could be interpreted as campaign activities,” DeMaio concluded.
The Criminal Complaint was submitted to the San Diego County District Attorney, California Highway Patrol, and the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The alleged criminal violations are detailed below.
CRIMINAL VIOLATION - 1
California Government Code Section 8314 declares “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.”
By utilizing and directing a taxpayer-funded vendor/consultant to distribute “express advocacy” campaign fliers while being compensated under a task order at a project site, Caltrans and Manhole Adjusting Inc., as well as employees involved in this incident, have all violated state law.
CRIMINAL VIOLATION - 2
California Vehicle Code Division 11, Section 22000 declares “No person shall bring a vehicle to a complete stop upon a highway so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the stop is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.”
Respondent may argue that traffic needed to be slowed for the purpose of the work being performed, however, several witnesses reported that no work was being performed during the times that they were slowed and stopped for the distribution of the “express advocacy” campaign fliers.
Additionally, even during times when road work was being performed by some of the Caltrans work crew, the appropriate action would be to merely slow traffic. The extraordinary and excessive act of completely stopping traffic and impeding drivers from navigating without first taking the “express advocacy” campaign flier for No on Prop 6.
Through these actions that had a significant impact on delaying and impeding the flow of traffic, Caltrans and Manhole Adjusting Inc, as well as each employee involved in this incident, have violated state law.
CRIMINAL VIOLATION - 3
The Regulations of the Fair Political Practices Commission, Title 2, Division 6, California Code of Regulations Section 18420 declares: “Reporting Campaign Contributions and Expenditures by State or Local Government Agencies. (a) Any candidate or committee that receives contributions from a state or local government agency must report receipt of those contributions… Nothing in this regulation should be read as condoning or authorizing campaign-related activities by a state or local government agency. Under many circumstances, such activities may be illegal. See Penal Code section 424; Government Code section 54964.”
The Regulations of the Fair Political Practices Commission, Title Title 2, Division 6, California Code of Regulations Section 18421.1 declares: “Disclosure of the Making and Receipt of Contributions. (f) A nonmonetary contribution is "made" by the contributor, and "received" by the candidate or committee, on the earlier of the following dates: (1) The date that funds are expended by the contributor for goods or services, if the specific expenditure is made at the behest of the candidate or committee;
While the contribution by a state or local government agency is strictly prohibited under California law and any individual or government agency can be punished for such action, it is also against the law for the No on Prop 6 committee to receive and to fail to report any in-kind contribution from a third party in support of its campaign.
In this case, No on Prop 6 actively provided campaign materials to government agents knowing that public funds would be utilized in covering the salaries of employees distributing the campaign fliers. Through these actions, and failure to disclose the nature of the in-kind value of the contribution, the No on Prop 6 campaign has violated the California Political Reform Act and associated regulations.