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Whitman donates campaign literature to libraries – but can they accept? [Updated]

March 30, 2010 |  4:46 pm

Meg Whitman hasn't been elected to anything yet, but she is already extending a helping hand to underfunded public agencies. Her campaign for governor announced Tuesday that Whitman is sending two copies of her "48-page policy magazine" to 1,400 libraries around California. (Her campaign at first was calling it a "book" but recently switched to "magazine." Others have called it a very extensive, glossy political advertisement.)

The publication, whatever one calls it, is titled "Building a New California," and includes Whitman's positions on a number of issues, such as "End Lawsuit Abuse," and "Harmonize Regulatory Authority," and "Promote the Use of Technology." It also lets readers know how to find her campaign website and other promotional material, and includes index cards (just like in a regular magazine) with e-mail addresses to volunteer for her in eight regions of the state.

"I encourage the libraries to display my magazine in their periodicals section so voters can gain a clear understanding of how I will govern, if elected in November," Whitman said in a statement. It was unclear if the magazines could be checked out or would have to be viewed in the reference section.

But librarians might want to think twice about following her instructions, according to Whitman's opponent in the Republican primary, Steve Poizner, whose aides said that aiding her attempt to influence the reading public could be illegal.

[Updated at 5:02 p.m.: Whitman's aides said her campaign contacted the California Library Assn. and its representative said that it would be permissible for librarians to display the publication at their discretion.]

Poizner's campaign provided this language from state law to support its claim:

Cal Gov Code § 8314 (2010)

§ 8314.  Unlawful use of state resources; Penalties

(a) It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.

Cal Gov Code § 54964 (2009)

§ 54964.  Unlawful expenditure

  1. An officer, employee, or consultant of a local agency may not expend or authorize the expenditure of any of the funds of the local agency to support or oppose the approval or rejection of a ballot measure, or the election or defeat of a candidate, by the voters.

-- Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento

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