Los Angeles City Atty. James K. Hahn on Thursday filed suit against opponents of Proposition 128, the sweeping environmental initiative, charging them with violating state law by failing to disclose that major chemical and oil firms helped finance the opposition's radio commercials.
"These ads are supported and financed by the big oil companies, the big chemical companies, and the big agriculture companies," Hahn said. "Totally ignoring the provisions of the law, they have continued to air these ads without saying who really is paying for them."
A "No on 128" spokesman denied that the radio ads violate the law and said they will continue running unaltered for at least another week.
The lawsuit is the first legal test under Proposition 105, the "Public's Right to Know Act" passed by California voters in 1988. Under the law, ads for or against ballot measures must identify any industry that contributes $50,000 or more and whose combined contributions make up at least 25% of all contributions.
The dispute turns on what percentage of contributions the chemical industry has made to the opposition.
Scott Macdonald said his group has raised $410,000 to oppose 128, of which $90,000--or 22%--is from the chemical industry.
However, Hahn and pro-128 leaders Thursday cited state records indicating that the opponents had raised only $328,000, making the proportion of chemical industry contributions 27%.
Melissa Warren, a spokeswoman for the California secretary of state's office, said that "as of today, we have no record of contributions beyond the $328,00 filed as of June 30."
Macdonald said he could not immediately explain the discrepancy but insisted that the total was "very close to $410,000."
Proposition 128, which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot, is formally called the Environmental Protection Act of 1990, but is termed "Big Green" by its supporters. Opponents call it "the Hayden initiative" in an effort to associate it with Assemblyman Tom Hayden, the Santa Monica Democrat who is one of the measure's authors.
TV ads in favor of Proposition 128 identify the entertainment industry and environmental groups as financial backers.
Macdonald accused Hahn of serving as a "pawn of environmental extremists" in filing the Los Angeles Superior Court suit.
Hahn, noting that the law permits a court to award damages three times the amount spent on ads that illegally fail to identify sponsors, said he hopes to eventually win $1.8 million for the city's treasury. He based this sum on his estimate of a $600,000 budget for the disputed ads.