The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) enforces the Political Reform Act to ensure the integrity of state and local government in California. The Act prohibits mass mailings sent at public expense when the item features an elected officer.
Last week, the Cupertino Union School District sent a mass mailer to all district residents featuring an article written by, and picture of, elected Board member – Josephine Lucey. The mass mailer featured Board members on the second page, under a section called “Jo Lucey Board News and Activities.”
The CUSD newsletter which can be found here may constitute a mass mailing sent at public expense, according to the criteria outlined on the FPPC’s website. Also, the mailer could greatly benefit CUSD Board member, Jo Lucey, who is up for election against a competitive field of several candidates. Lucey’s page finishes with the statement, “CUSD is a wonderful community and we thank you for your support of our schools.” The word “support” seems to be one of the FPPC’s trigger words that may induce a violation. Here’s a relevant FAQ from their site:
- Q. A school district publishes a newsletter mentioning the activities of its elected board members, which is funded in part by district funds and in part through advertising revenues. Each month the newsletter is mailed to all employees of the school district, homes of the students, and various other community members. Is it permissible to include information related to various events at school sites throughout the district and note the school board members who were in attendance?
- A. No. Assuming that more than 200 newsletters are mailed, this item meets the four criteria of a prohibited mass mailing.
The FPPC encourages citizens to file a complaint if they suspect someone has violated the Political Reform Act. A complaint can be filed anonymously with the FPPC’s Enforcement Division, using its Electronic Complaint System that can be found here.