Attorney General Kamala Harris comes under fire for ballot title bias

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February 21, 2012

Sacramento, California: Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of California, has come under bipartisan scorn because of the ballot titles her office wrote for a proposed state Pension Reform Initiative. Supporters announced in early February 2012 that they were pulling the plug on their 2012 campaign "after determining that the Attorney General's false and misleading title and summary makes it nearly impossible to pass."[1]

Reliably liberal columnist George Skelton weighed in, saying, "Give the voters a break. It's hard enough to figure out what most of these ballot measures do without the A.G. dishing out hard-core propaganda on official documents."[2]

Steven Greenhut, a conservative columnist, chimed in, saying, "Unfortunately, California Attorney General Kamala Harris' recent misuse of power to provide a dishonest ballot title and summary for proposed pension-reform initiatives, which she opposes, comes right out of the totalitarian playbook, where those wielding power recognize no rules of decency or fairness...when California Pension Reform submitted two initiatives that would rein in the unsustainable costs of the state's pension system, Harris decided to behave as a political operative and besmirch the office she holds by distorting the official descriptions that most voters rely upon when making their voting decision."[3]

Specifically, according to Greenhut:

"In January, she titled the reform measures: "Reduces pensions for public employees." That's flat-out wrong. Her summary was filled with distortions meant to sway voters against them. As result, last week the pension reform group dropped the initiative. They couldn't raise the $2 million needed to gather the signatures given the overwhelming obstacle Harris put in their way."[3]

The liberal editorial board of the Modesto Bee similarly opined:

"Her office's official description of the two measures read like talking points taken straight from a public employee union boss' campaign handbook. Harris claimed the measures would reduce retirement income for current employees, which is not true. She also claimed that future government employees would lose survivor and death benefits, also not true."[4]

The San Diego Union-Tribune's editorial board referred to it as "Kamala Harris' dirty trick on California."[5]

The editorial board of the Contra Costa Times wrote in an editorial, "Dan Pellissier, president of California Pension Reform, which presented the ballot initiatives to Harris, called her titles and summaries ugly, partisan and manipulative. He's absolutely right; union opponents of the measure couldn't have been more partisan had they written the summary."[6]

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