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From the Publisher

Dec. 9, 2004


Anonymously yours


OK, readers. You know who you are.

I receive letters marked NFP -- "not for publication" -- regularly. They are almost always signed, or at least I have an e-mail address so I can respond. I welcome them because usually a correspondent just wants to (a) let off steam, (b) inform me about some deficiency in my education, or (c) is just shy about expressing an opinion to more than one person at a time.

I received a few notes in response to my Nov. 11 column, "Sense, sensibilities" regarding the motives behind Rob Arkley's purchase of the Balloon Track. One woman, who identified herself as a liberal, said she privately agreed with my column and wrote, "[If Rob Arkley is] buying the property with all its warts and is willing to do what it takes [good for him]. He doesn't need the city throwing its money away." The very next day I received an elegantly handwritten card accusing me of being just another Arkley toadie. The writer said she looked forward to the day I'll "eat crow in public." It was signed with a fake name and a return address of "1 Aorta St., Arcata."

Receiving the anonymous note reminded me of some unfinished business regarding the past election: the two groups that contributed significant funds to influence voters. Like my letter writer, they are apparently unwilling to have their names attached to their words or deeds.

One group is the Humboldt Taxpayers League, which paid for advertising to defeat Measure L, the 1 percent sales tax initiative for city and county services. Whether the measure was a good one or not -- it was soundly defeated -- the league should willingly reveal the specific source of funds for its effort.

At first league officials did not file financial disclosure information at all. When informed of their obligation by Lindsey McWilliams, county elections official, they responded by listing expenditures only, not contributors. A few weeks ago, the league lamely amended the filing, adding a list of its members but not those who contributed directly to defeat Measure L.

That's not good enough. McWilliams has asked the Fair Political Practices Commission for a determination. This deliberate obfuscation shows either ignorance of or contempt for campaign disclosure laws. Voters have a right to know where the money is coming from to support or defeat a candidate or an initiative. Every member of the Taxpayers League should demand a full accounting and disclosure from its board.

The other group, "Eureka Coalition for Jobs," is more mysterious. Voters may recall the coalition paid for a flurry of last-minute television ads and direct mailers attempting to malign incumbent Eureka City Councilmember Chris Kerrigan and boost the chances of his challenger, Rex Bohn. But the effort misfired, and even Bohn quickly distanced himself from the ads. It was too late; the ads may have even resulted in a wider margin of victory for Kerrigan.

Although the Times-Standard has taken a lead by filing an FPPC complaint to reveal the financial backers of the "Coalition for Jobs," this well financed group may be just within the boundaries of the current disclosure laws. If that is the case, we need to look at amendments that will plug this loophole.

The election may be over, but the media should stay on these stories until there is a resolution.



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