My Boston Tea Party Analogy Strikes a Chord

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

My comparison of participants in the Boston Tea Party to those who supported a California political advertisement struck home considering the reaction I received from Joe Mathews in Fox and Hounds today, Jerry Brown’s spokesman Clifford Sterling at Calitics, and the guys over at Calbuzz, last week.

The three articles generally complained that the use of the Boston Tea Party analogy does not fit because the action by patriots in 1773 is not akin to funding a political advertisement in 2010. However, they focus on the act. The analogy is about consequences to the actors who speak up to "official" power and can be punished. In that framework, the analogy is extremely apt.

Notice in the responses, everyone ignores a central argument of the ad—the threatening of lawsuits — the menacing use of official power. It is understandable that donors fear exposure when such power is threatened.

It is not coincidence that a similar fear troubled the participants of the Boston Tea Party. On the website of the Old South Meeting House, which still stands today and where the patriots met in Boston to protest the tax on tea, there is a list of the Tea Party participants. In discussing the difficulty in assembling the list, the page notes: "Had their names become known to British authorities, they would have been arrested and punished. Even years later, some retained secrecy for fear of lawsuits…"

I’d say the analogy is right on target.

Joe Mathews seems most offended in my original piece by comparisons between the anonymity reporters practice and the protection of donors permitted under the issue advocacy law.

Joe asserts that reporters only use anonymity for sources in unusual circumstances when they can’t get information elsewhere.

Then perhaps he can explain why editors at his former employer, the Los Angeles Times, allowed two uses of anonymous sources in yesterday’s article on former Bell City Manager, Robert Rizzo. One source wanted anonymity because he didn’t want to offend former colleagues; the other because she did not want to be associated with Rizzo in public after praising him.

These individuals do not come close to requiring the protection of donors to an issue ad that might offend lawmakers or regulators.

Finally, Mathews says the people created the budget deficit during the Brown administration by passing Proposition 13 with Brown spending from the state surplus to cover property tax loses.

During that time, while taxpayers were being crushed locally with outrageous property taxes, they were also being overtaxed by the state. Brown and the legislature had built up what Democratic State Treasurer, Jesse Unruh, called an "obscene surplus" equivalent to about 40% of the general fund.  With that surplus, good fiscal management and spending cuts the budget could have been managed without creating a state deficit.

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