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Measure E Uses Parties, Giveaways to Hype Sales Tax Bid. State Watchdog Says It's Legal.
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By Edward Smith
Published 2 months ago on
March 1, 2024

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Measure E campaign staffers offer gift cards for following their social media page.

A consultant for Measure E said attorneys thoroughly vetted the campaign for its legality.

Fair Political Practices Commission says the state doesn’t prohibit raffles, but local law may vary.


The Measure E campaign staff is throwing a party. But the giveaways, freebies, and overall tactics have some questioning the promotion’s legality.

The campaign to pass the sales tax funding construction at Fresno State is trying to gain a footing among potential voters with gift cards, free headshots, scooters, and even a bowling party.

In exchange for following the ballot initiative’s social media pages, the Measure E campaign is offering followers a chance to win gift cards to Let’s Roll Fresno ice cream shop, Tower Blendz smoothie shop, Senor Aji Peruvian Kitchen, Club Skin Gym, Hummus Republic, and more.

 

 

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A post shared by Yes on Measure E (@fresno_measure_e)

Tim Orman, general consultant for the Measure E campaign, said their social media team chose the businesses. Campaign attorneys thoroughly vetted the promotion for legality, he said.

California’s Political Reform Act does not prohibit the promotion, said Jay Wierenga, communications director with the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Wierenga did say local ordinances may forbid those kinds of political campaigns. Requests for comment made by GV Wire to the city of Fresno and the Public Integrity Unit of the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office were not returned.

Tower Blendz owner Antony Ayodele said the campaign reached out to him but that he was neutral on the initiative.

Illegal Measure E Sign at Fresno State?

Measure E is a .25% sales tax on purchases in Fresno County. The tax is estimated to raise $1.5 billion over 25 years. It is on the March 5 primary ballot.

Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias, a vocal opponent of Measure E, said the promotion offers financial support in exchange for support.

A Measure E sign also appears on Fresno State property, near the Save Mart Center. Fresno City Attorney Andrew Janz said city ordinances do not forbid signs on state property, nor does the FPPC.

However, state law forbids Fresno State from taking a stance on the measure.

“In my opinion, it’s a clear violation of campaign laws, you’re not allowed to provide financial benefit and financial incentives in exchange for somebody supporting a political campaign or voting in support of a political campaign,” Arias said.

A Measure E campaign sign hangs on a fence outside the Save Mart Center on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. By law, Fresno State cannot endorse ballot measures. (GV Wire/Edward Smith)

What Does Election Code Say About Promotions?

California election code limits promotions regarding voting. But a read of the code reveals rules about promises or agreements to vote a certain way or to stay away from voting.

Fresno County Clerk/Registrar of Voters James Kus said that campaigns have to follow both federal and state codes.

“The prohibitions are generally against providing incentives or disincentives for voting or not voting,” Kus said in an email to GV Wire. “Following an account or two and tagging a friend is probably a bit outside the prohibitions.”

The Fresno County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit determines the legality of promotions, Kus said.

Kus said those wanting to file a complaint can do so by downloading a form from the Registrar of Voters website or emailing the Public Integrity Unit at publicintegrity@fresnocountyca.gov.

Arias said he’s heard that complaints have been filed. But Arias said the DA’s Office shouldn’t need a complaint to be filed given how visible the offenses are.

“The public integrity unit does not need a formal complaint to open an investigation of this kind, they can initiate on their own,” Arias said. “I don’t see why (District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp) wouldn’t do that, given that these are such blatant violations of state law.”

Measure E Has Received More Than $1.5 Million Since Start of 2024

Since Jan. 1, the campaign has received more than $1.5 million, with Kerman lift company MEC Aerial Work Platforms donating $1 million. Construction magnate Richard Spencer founded the company.

Chinese company Zhejiang Dingli Machinery Co. has been acquiring a growing stake in MEC since 2017.

Spencer nearly single-handedly funded the first Measure E campaign in 2022.

In 2023, the campaign received $568,100 in donations, with $100,000 from MEC.

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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