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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics


Why is California’s Attorney General Spending Taxpayer Money to Send you Emails?

John Pelissero, senior scholar, quoted by The Sacramento Bee.

The act of contacting voters under the context of his current role as AG doesn't break any laws. While it's illegal for candidates to use taxpayer funds and a public agency’s staff for campaigning, Bonta did not break any laws sending the emails out to voters, and never makes any reference to his bid for reelection.

Still, using public resources to send a candidate’s message directly to voters right before an election is problematic, said John Pelissero, a senior scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

“There will be the perception on the part of voters that (the candidate is) doing something that doesn’t seem fair and that their opponents can’t tap into the funds of the State of California to promote their campaigns,” Pelissero said. “It will raise questions in some people’s minds about whether their activities have a campaign and election purpose more so than a good public-policy purpose behind them.”

John Pelissero, senior scholar, quoted by The Sacramento Bee.