Monday, February 1, 2010

The ethical dilemma of Mr Pugno: did he break the law for Prop 22?

Before Prop8 in California, there was Proposition 22, the "Knight Initiative" that outlawed same sex marriage. This was struck down by the Supreme Court of California n 2008, as unconstitutional under the state Constitution, which led to legal same sex marriages during the California Interregnum. Proposition 8 sought to amend the state constitution to once again outlaw marriage equality, and as we know, it succeeded.

The "Knight Initiative" was written by Pete Knight, a State Senator from Lancaster, CA. Its dislike of GLBT people is all the more striking because Knight's middle son is gay and he came out during the campaign to oppose his father. Some dad, eh?

But I digress. Yesterday, an investigative reporter published evidence that one of CA State Sen. Knight's staff, Andrew Pugno, worked in the Senator's office using official letterhead to coordinate the strategy for Prop 22 with the Mormon church.
The Mormon church's involvement and financial support in California's gay marriage debate is well documented. But Pugno's newly unearthed memo, written on state government letterhead, is striking evidence of how closely the Mormon church has been involved in the gay marriage debate in California for more than a decade.
So what? Well, there's a problem. Seems California law is explicit that there has to be a bright line between the business of the people's representatives using the people's money, and campaigning. Basically, you can't spend your senate budget, use your senate letterhead, or your senate fax machine for a political campaign.
As for Pugno using Senate letterhead for a political issue – and asking Wardle to use the government fax machine and phone lines – the law is fairly strict. One regulation does allow for "incidental" campaign use, but Roman Porter, executive director of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, said about cases like this in general: "The use of public funds for campaign purposes is unlawful." (The statute of limitations on any violation from 1998 has likely passed.)
So the progressive Courage Campaign is filing a complaint for an investigation of Mr Pugno.

Why does this matter? Well, as the Courage Campaign explains it best:
Pugno is of course the general counsel to, and a candidate for the Republican nomination for the 5th District State Assembly seat. He is a key figure in the campaign strategy used for both Prop 22 and Prop 8, and for the legal defense of Prop 8 in both the California Supreme Court and in Judge Vaughn Walker’s federal courtroom. As longtime Trial Trackers know, Pugno also played a key role in trying get this website shut down by suing Courage Campaign over the logo we use at this site.
At some level, the PropH8 supporters think that the laws don't apply to them: campaign transparency, openness, funding sources--all dispensible if they choose. We've seen this for PropH8, as well as for Question 1 in Maine and for Referendum 71 in Washington State. They even now have a case before SCOTUS about whether or not on the issue of marriage equality in particular, campaign transparency laws should be put aside. All because of false claims of violence--apparently if they say it enough they think someone will believe that there are marauding bands of 'mos attacking them. (More in my previous post, SCOTUS and equality opponents: the courage of conviction?).

Now, we have further evidence that they think they are above the law. The law is for the little people and the homosexuals.

So it will be interesting to see what happens to Mr Pugno. My prediction? Not a thing. Being a gay, married Californian has left me very cynical about the other side.

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