Revising History to Fool Taxpayers

After Joseph Stalin took the reins of power in the Soviet Union in the mid 1920’s, his image suddenly appeared in paintings of important meetings of the Bolshevik revolutionaries – which was odd because he had attended virtually none of them. Later, after each successive Stalinist purge, group photos that included previously prominent, but now ostracized, imprisoned or executed communists, would be scrubbed, so as to appear that they had never existed.
Of course attempts by politicians to rewrite their history go far beyond just doctoring paintings and photographs.In Washington, D.C. we have the curious case of Jonathan Gruber. During the run-up to Obamacare, both then Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama sang the praises of the roll that MIT professor of economics Jonathan Gruber had played in crafting the legislation. Gruber has been described as the architect of Obamacare and, before that, the similar Romneycare in Massachusetts.Recently, videos surfaced online showing economist Grubber telling groups that the healthcare law had been written specifically in a way to deceive the “stupid” American public so that it would not be clear that it actually contained massive tax increases.When confronted with this evidence, now Minority Leader Pelosi, who famously said that lawmakers had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it, did her best impression of a deer in the headlights and denied any knowledge of Jonathan Gruber. The president acknowledged Gruber, but dismissed his influence as an insignificant. Both Pelosi’s and Obama’s efforts to downplay Gruber’s role in drafting the Obamacare is so easily disproven by the facts that even the most left leaning journalists are incredulous.

In the recent California General Election, we saw almost humorous efforts by some candidates, who in the past opposed Proposition 13, to recast themselves as champions of the taxpayer protecting measure.

Perhaps the most egregious example occurred in Orange County, where former Assemblyman Jose Solorio was seeking a state Senate seat. Knowing the district included many homeowners, he tried to campaign as a protector of Proposition 13. He was even able to persuade Jerry Brown to record political ads intended to verify Solorio’s Proposition 13 credentials.

Sadly for Solorio and his band of revisionist historians, the Assembly keeps careful records and it was easy for taxpayers to document that he had voted more than once for measures that would have undercut Proposition 13’s taxpayer protections. With the truth out, his candidacy was overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

The lesson here is that when any politician makes claims about his or her record, because of the internet, voters can quickly check to see if they are being told the truth, or if, like Jonathan Gruber, the office seeker believes the public to be stupid.

Revisionists rely on deception and obfuscation. To expose them, it is therefore necessary for the majority of voters to have access to the truth and have the skills to discern its importance. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piece was originally published at

Reprieve for Prop. 13

By now, most Californians have read dozens of analyses from experts and partisans alike about the meaning of last Tuesday’s election. Analyzing the national scene is not rocket science.  Republicans romped and Democrats took a shellacking.

But understanding the impact here in ever-so-blue California is a bit more complicated.  While it is true that Republicans, who tend to be more taxpayer friendly, did not win a single statewide seat, the news for fans of Proposition 13 is actually quite good.

Rather than focus on the statewide races, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association was laser focused on using our political muscle to prevent the tax-and-spend majority party from securing the dreaded two-thirds supermajority in both the California Senate and Assembly.  The reason why a two-thirds supermajority is so dangerous is two-fold.  First, under Proposition 13, taxes imposed by the state cannot be imposed without the two-thirds vote.  As long as the minority Republicans hold firm against tax hikes, Californians will be protected.  (And it’s not like California needs higher taxes.  We already have the highest income tax rate, the highest sales tax rate and the highest gas tax in America).

Second, it takes a two-thirds vote of each house to place a proposed amendment to the California Constitution on the ballot.  Had the majority party achieved the supermajority, it could have placed anti-Proposition 13 measures on the ballot at will.  But, because the Democrats were thwarted in their efforts, they will have to convince their political allies – principally the public sector unions – to spend several million dollars to collect the necessary signatures to qualify such a proposal.

Another observation about this year’s election is that, as if there were any doubt, the branding of Proposition 13 has never been stronger.  Both true Proposition 13 defenders and pretenders used Proposition 13 as a talking point in their campaigns.  Turns out that those candidates who were true Proposition 13 defenders – meaning they had the endorsement of the HJTA Political Action Committee – did very well.  So much, in fact, that most of the endorsed candidates won, even those whom the pundits thought had little chance of victory.

That Proposition 13 itself was such a centerpiece of this election cycle is astounding.  This landmark measure was on the ballot more than 35 years ago and yet incumbent legislators who had bad Proposition 13 votes while in the Legislature suddenly felt vulnerable.  A former legislator who was openly anti-Proposition 13 lost badly to an HJTA endorsed candidate, Janet Nguyen, in a contested Senate seat.  Her opponent, Jose Solorio, was in such deep trouble that Governor Brown cut one of his very few television ads this election cycle in a failed attempt to save him.  As in 1978, Jerry Brown was bested by Proposition 13.

But to those who think that these political victories allow us a chance to rest, think again.  Already, the enemies of Proposition 13 are conducting extensive political research – both polling and focus groups – to determine how best to dismantle these critical taxpayer protections.  And left leaning anti-taxpayer groups have intensified their efforts to convince local governments and school district boards to pass anti-Proposition 13 “resolutions.”  These resolutions may be non-binding, but our adversaries are laying the groundwork for a repeal of Proposition 13 in 2016.  That much is very clear.

But for now, let’s enjoy the victories just achieved.  Just in time for the coming holiday, taxpayers and homeowners in California have much to be thankful for.  And while we realize our reprieve will be short and that we must prepare for battle anew in a few short weeks, these victories give us the much needed hope that California can, once again, become the Golden State it once was.

 Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piece was originally published on

Dems Lose State Senate Supermajority

With impressive showings in Orange County and the Central Valley, Republicans have succeeded in blocking a Democratic super-majority in the State Senate.

Republican Senators Andy Vidak and Anthony Cannella easily won reelection in their Central Valley districts, while Orange County Supervisor Janet Nugyen clobbered former Asm. Jose Solorio by twenty points in a highly-contested open seat. The GOP victories come just eight months after corruption scandals cost California Democrats their super-majority in the State Senate and give Senate Republicans some leverage in votes on taxes and procedural motions in the upper house.

Two years ago, the Senate Democratic Caucus under Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg won every contested race. This time around, Senate Democrats under new leader Kevin de Leon struggled in districts that are considered safe Democratic seats.

In the 12th Senate District, Cannella, a first-term Republican, cruised to reelection against Democrat Shawn Bagley, a produce-broker and businessman from Salinas. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, the Republican lawmaker nearly doubled up on his opponent, capturing 62 percent to Bagley’s 38 percent of the vote.

Although Democrats hold a 13-point advantage in voter registration, Cannella built a sizable war chest, which staved off serious challengers. A moderate Republican, Cannella won over independent voters and moderate Democrats by co-sponsoring legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. He also pushed national Republicans to adopt comprehensive immigration reform and voted in favor of the Dream Act, a controversial bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain conditional permanent residency and in-state tuition benefits.

State Senate 14: Vidak’s impressive win

In the 14th Senate District, early returns showed a potential upset of Vidak, who won the seat in a 2013 special election. But, with 90 percent of precincts reporting, Vidak had established a comfortable 11-point lead over Fresno School Board Trustee Luis Chavez.

Republicans across the state benefited from a combination of low voter turnout and Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to ignore a serious statewide campaign. However, they have reason to celebrate Vidak’s win as progress in reaching moderate Democrats and independent voters.

On paper, Democrats should win the 14th State Senate race every time. Democrats have 20 point advantage in voter registration in the district that is also half Latino. According to absentee ballot data from Political Data, Inc., this year’s absentee turnout was higher than 2010 and almost as high as 2012.

Vidak, the legislature’s leading critic of high-speed rail, has questioned pay-to-play politics in the contracting process and called for the public to re-vote on the controversial project. He also stood firm in calling for the Senate to expel several members accused of corruption and bribery.

State Senate 34: Nguyen’s Win

In the 34th Senate District, Nguyen, a first generation Vietnamese-American immigrant, withstood a barrage of negative attacks to defeat former Assemblyman Jose Solorio by 20 points. With 99.1 percent of precincts reporting, as of 12:55 a.m., Nguyen had 70,438 votes, compared to 46,867 for Solorio, a trustee on the Rancho Santiago Community College District Board.

Nguyen, the youngest supervisor in Orange County’s history, is headed to Sacramento thanks to a strong turnout by Vietnamese-American voters. Asian turnout among absentee voters, according to data made available by Political Data, Inc., was up significantly in the district, where 80 percent of the district’s Asian voters are Vietnamese. The race was considered to be one of the most competitive legislative races in the state. Surprisingly, Nguyen added to her vote total from the June 3rd primary, when she captured 52 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

Republicans also performed well in the 32nd Senate District, where Downey Councilman Mario Guerra kept Democrat Tony Mendoza on the ropes in a safe Democratic seat. With 97.5 percent of precincts reporting as of 2:02 a.m., Mendoza had 51.6 percent of the vote, a 3 percent advantage over Guerra.

Senate intra-party feuds

Under California’s Top 2 elections system, the highest vote-getters in the June primary advance to the November election. In two Democratic intra-party feuds, the moderate candidates prevailed in closely-contested races. In the 6th Senate District, Assemblyman Richard Pan defeated fellow Democratic lawmaker Roger Dickinson by roughly six points.

In the 26th Senate District, liberal activist Sandra Fluke was blown out by fellow Democrat Ben Allen. A member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School Board, Allen held a nearly 2-1 lead over the women’s rights activist who became a darling of the left after her national spat with conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. With 84 percent of precincts reporting as of 2:02 a.m., Allen had 61 percent to Fluke’s 38.8 percent. The Torrance-based seat was previously held by moderate Democrat Ted Lieu, who was winning his campaign to replace retiring Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills.

The only Senate contest between two Republicans remained too close to call. With 63 percent of precincts reporting, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone held a six point lead over former Republican Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia in the 28th Senate District.

This article was originally published on

Two Nov. 4 races critical for maintaining Prop. 13

It’s late October and that means there are a lot of people out there wearing masks. But this isn’t about Halloween. This is about all the fake taxpayer interests – organizations and candidates – who are trying to gain an advantage in the upcoming election by portraying themselves as defenders of homeowners and Proposition 13.

At some level, we at Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association ought to be pleased that others are attempting to use our name and the Prop. 13 label. This fakery, if nothing else, is an acknowledgment that taxpayer issues are very important to voters – even in a left leaning state like California. After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Perhaps.  But we should not – and will not – countenance deception.

Exhibit A in the “fake” category is in the hotly contested state senate race in Orange County between Janet Nguyen and former Assemblyman Jose Solorio.  Nguyen is a solid pro-taxpayer candidate and Solorio is a typical liberal politician who would, if given the chance, repeal Prop. 13 in a heartbeat.  The problem for Solorio is that this district is in Orange County whose voters are more conservative and hostile to higher taxes.

That is why Solorio has enlisted the services of none other than Governor Jerry Brown himself to do both radio and television ads in a flailing effort to convince voters that, no – he really does like Proposition 13.  But recent polling suggests that Orange County voters aren’t fooled and that HJTA’s strong endorsement of Janet Nguyen is far more powerful than the Governor’s push for Solorio.  (The fact that Solorio consistently received “Fs” on HJTA’s legislative report card while he was in the Assembly makes his attempt at deception particularly difficult.)

This contest is critical for the preservation of Proposition 13.  It is the most high stakes race in the entire state because if Janet Nguyen wins, this will prevent the tax-and-spend California Legislature from passing tax increases at will and placing anti-Proposition 13 constitutional amendments on the ballot.

In addition, it’s not just candidates who attempt to hold themselves out as pro-taxpayer just to fool voters.  In the current election cycle, a group we’ve never heard of before is selling its endorsement in favor of local tax hikes and left leaning candidates.  The so-called “California Republican Taxpayers Association” has no bona fides as a legitimate taxpayer association.  Moreover, its use of the word “Republican” has party officials incensed and strongly considering litigation for trademark infringement.

Finally, the most unusual attempt at deception we’ve seen this election is a mail piece from Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva who is running against pro-taxpayer Republican Young Kim.  Like the Nguyen-Solorio race, this is a battle being fought in mostly conservative Orange County. And, like Solorio, it is hard for Quirk-Silva to hide her anti-Prop 13 animus.  So what is her strategy?  Simple – she puts her name beside Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in a mail piece which simply notes that both she and HJTA support Proposition 2 – a mostly meaningless initiative on the November ballot.  (Prop. 2 is a marginal improvement to the state’s existing “rainy day” fund law so we support it.  Note, however, it is not the hard spending limit we would prefer).

By putting her name next to HJTA, is Quirk-Silva attempting to associate herself with the “gold standard” of California taxpayer groups Apparently so.  But this plan could easily backfire by giving Young Kim an opening to inform voters that it is she who has the endorsement of the HJTA Political Action Committee.

These examples are but a few of the often silly efforts at attempting to trick voters into believing that anti-taxpayer interests are not what they really are.  Voters need to be aware of this treachery.  Fortunately, most know who to trust.  And it sure as heck isn’t the candidates and groups who are “Jarvis Jesters.”

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.