John Locke Update / Research Newsletter (Archive)

Improper Government Advocacy: The Importance of Stopping the Misuse of Funds

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As has been reported, the John Locke Foundation has sent letters to various school districts and other governmental bodies requesting that they remove advocacy material from their web sites. The advocacy by these governmental bodies in favor of sales tax referendums isn’t limited to web-related materials only, and therefore I have asked for a wide range of records.

Why are these advocacy efforts particularly problematic and should be of concern to all citizens, regardless of where you stand on the various sales tax referendums?

Here are 10 reasons (I could write a lot more). I didn’t include the whole "breaking the law" problem, because I want to show why even that "minor" problem is far from the only reason why governmental bodies shouldn’t be involved in endorsing or opposing a referendum:

  1. The government is using taxpayer dollars to try to secure more taxpayer dollars.
  2. The government is using taxpayer dollars to help promote views that many taxpayers oppose. In other words, taxpayers are forced to subsidize speech that may run contrary to their own interests and views.
  3. The governmental bodies have platforms to communicate their views and the ability to influence the outcomes on referendums that is far superior to anything most private organizations could ever achieve.
  4. The government has funding (i.e., taxpayer dollars) it can use for its cause that was never secured by gaining donors for the cause. The money was secured through force. The government is deciding how to use other people’s money to serve its own self-interest.
  5. The government’s funding (i.e., taxpayers’ money) can be an "endless" pool of money because there’s so much money at its disposal.
  6. Money can be diverted from core governmental services so the government can engage in advocacy.
  7. Governmental bodies that are involved in advocacy efforts are prone to putting express or implied pressure on government employees to take (or not take) action consistent with the government’s position, even if contrary to the views of those employees.
  8. Referendums and elections are for the general public, not the government.  Individuals have the right to vote and free speech rights, not the government.  Government is inappropriately interfering with this political process.
  9. The legitimacy of the elections is undermined because of the government’s excessive influence on the outcome of the voting.
  10. Government uses inappropriate advocacy channels, such as having teachers disseminate advocacy material to students in order to take home for their parents.

There’s going to be a lot more on the whole misuse of public funds issue.  Stay tuned!

Click here for the Rights & Regulation Update archive.

Daren Bakst is Senior Research Fellow in Agricultural Policy at the Heritage Foundation. In this position, Bakst studies and writes about agricultural and environmental policy and property rights, among other issues.  He has done extensive work on the farm bill… ...

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