The old saying goes, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” Are LA County voters going to be shamed by county officials by fooling them again when the county goes beyond the law that prohibits government interference in ballot campaigns?

It certainly looks that way.

Recently, in responding to a complaint filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Fair Political Practices Commission discovered probable cause to pursue the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and individual members of the board on 15 counts of failing to disclose improper political expenditures in favor of the Measure H the 20017 tax increase to benefit the homeless.

The admonition from the FPPC did not seem to discourage the county from funding a new tax effort. This time the tax, Measure W, is to deal with storm water runoff. A parcel tax was created to tax properties. As usual when local governments want to push a tax, the officials create an “education” campaign so that voters will learn and understand about the tax and its goals. Too often, the so-called education campaigns are thinly disguised advocacy campaigns.

In a new complaint filed by the California Taxpayers Association, the education excuse is deemed a cover for true advocacy using tax dollars in backing the storm water tax increase measure. The CalTax complaint says the county, in making expenditures on behalf of Measure W, consists of “a knowing and willful disobedience of the Political Reform Act.”

CalTax Director of State and Local Finance Robert Gutierrez, released a statement that charged, “Under the guise of “educational outreach” to voters, the county has budgeted $11.2 million to produce videos and campaign mailers that urge voters to support Measure W. One of the “educational” videos produced with public resources never mentions that Measure W is a parcel tax.”

Given the tenor of the material and the timing of its release, the stuff certainly appears to be campaign advocacy. Gutierrez called it an “egregious misuse of tax dollars.”

Will county voters fall again for a government-backed effort to raise taxes?

Since the FPPC took over a year to act on the Jarvis Association complaint, there is little hope any action will take place before the election. Once the tax is passed—if it is passed– it will not be voided, so it would fall on the FPPC to act in such a way to discourage future misuse of taxpayer funds for political campaigns.