Voice of OC dropped a bombshell of a story yesterday when they told us about a little known Orange County Register policy on political advertising. Anaheim activist Jason Young ran an advertisement in the OCR owned publication the Anaheim Bulletin calling out the FACT that the vote taken by current Council members Kris Murray and Gail Eastman was voided by a Superior Court judge because it was not properly noticed as required by the state open meetings law, the Brown Act. Apparently an advertisement that calls out by name the only two council members remaining who voted for the $158 million tax subsidy violates the Register’s advertising sensibilities and hence its policy.
The Voice of OC article points out:
The Orange County Register abruptly altered its advertising policy, barring ads that challenge politicians by name, after two Anaheim city councilwomen complained to the newspaper’s new owners about ads from a local activist that criticized their support of a controversial hotel subsidy.
The ads apparently infuriated Murray and Eastman, and according to multiple sources, the two made their feelings clear during a meet-and-greet session with Eric Spitz, who along with Aaron Kushner, purchased the newspaper last year.
Murray and Eastman told Register officials that the ad’s statements, which referred to state open meetings law violations by the councilwomen, were “unfair and incorrect,” said Arianna Barrios, Murray’s senior policy aide who attended the meeting.
Murray is particularly sensitive to criticism and we are not surprised that she complained. What does surprise us is that the Register actually buckled after the complaint. While we understand that any publisher of a publication reserves the right to accept or deny advertising at their discretion, we submit that the specificity of preventing an advertiser from pointing out undisputed fact and naming the current elected officials responsible is a step too close to censoring public debate and discourse.
When you add to this new policy the fact that the Orange County Register did not even name the council members responsible for the vote in their coverage of the judge’s decision to invalidate their action, we move into territory of limiting public knowledge of, and therefore focus on, those responsible. Unfortunately we can’t know whether the error of omission was made at the reporter level, or at the news editor level. To their credit, the editorial writers of the Register have been critical of the subsidy and have called on the current council to reverse course. However, even in that editorial, “A backroom sweetheart deal“, they failed again to mention by name who was responsible. Here is how they put it:
It remains to be seen how the newly seated council responds to Judge Perk’s ruling. Two newly elected members – Lucille Kring and Jordan Brandman – take the places of Lorri Galoway, who voted against the deal back in January, and Harry Sidhu, who voted in favor.
Mr. Brandman supports the development subsidy. Ms. Kring has not ruled out the subsidy, but says she would have negotiated for some tangible public benefit in return for the $158 million.
Yep, they did not mention at all the names of Eastman, Murray, and Mayor Tom Tait who continued on the council after the November election. They also failed to mention that Tait, who voted against the measure, tried to hold a special meeting that was properly noticed to allow public comment was blocked by Murray, Eastman and Sidhu from holding a vote because they conveniently could not attend the meeting.
The particular ad run by Jason Young was not misleading or incorrect. It is a FACT that the judge ruled that Eastman and Murray, under the cover of the council majority, violated the law. We are confused as to why the Orange County Register would find the communication of such information to be negative political advertising. Sometimes the truth about the actions of elected official may be negative from their point of view, but that shouldn’t silence communication of those realities.
Maybe if the Orange County Register was doing it’s job people like Jason Young wouldn’t find the need to pay for advertisements in their publications to point out the truth about elected officials.