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Orange County's Fair Campaign Practices Panel

June 19, 1988

The Times recently reported that the Orange County Fair Campaign Practices Commission was not convened to hear a complaint about an allegedly false Measure A ad because Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp says such commissions infringe on freedom of speech.

Orange County has a weak commission indeed if it can be derailed so easily. The public interest would have been better served if Registrar of Voters Don Tanney had called the commission into session, and its findings had been publicized before the election. Then Van de Kamp's opinion on what constitutes free speech in campaigns might have been tested in court.

A federal court, in reviewing New York's Fair Campaign Code, has this to say: "The use of the known lie as a tool is at once at odds with the premises of democratic government and with the orderly manner in which the economic, social or political change is to be effected.

"Calculated falsehood falls into that class of utterances which are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality."

I seriously doubt that campaign lying would be found to be a constitutionally protected form of speech in California. What's apparently protecting it here is the timidity of local commissioners.

JEAN ASKHAM

Fullerton

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