Jan. 5, 2020
Ami Bera’s Website Misleadingly Touts False Endorsement
Deceptive use of 2-year-old endorsement may violate false advertising and campaign laws
SACRAMENTO — Nearly two years ago, the Sacramento Bee endorsed U.S. Rep. Ami Bera (CA-7) ahead of the June 2018 primary. The problem is Bera’s current campaign website touts that old endorsement as if it was freshly awarded for this year’s March 3rd primary in which Bera faces his first-ever Democratic challenger.
The misleading endorsement is found on the home page of beraforcongress.com in the “Latest News” section. Visitors can scroll down to it or link there via the top navigation bar. The first item quotes The Bee touting Bera as the district’s “clear choice.” This is followed by the first line from a campaign news release: “Dr. Ami Bera earned the endorsement of the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board for the California 7th Congressional District’s Primary…”
But the home page nowhere notes that this endorsement is two elections old and does not apply to the upcoming primary. The Bee, in fact, has yet to endorse in the race. If visitors click to the full news release, they then can learn the endorsement is from May 2018.
“Such deception is unfit of an experienced member of Congress. Any voter who visits that page would think The Bee had endorsed Bera for this election. For some voters, that’s all they need to make their decision,” said Jeff Burdick, a Progressive Democrat who lives in Arden-Arcade. “This shows great disrespect to the voters, The Bee and to our democratic institutions.”
Burdick added the deceptive tout may even violate state and federal laws. For instance, California Business and Professions Code 17500 BPC defines the crime of false or deceptive advertising to be when a person or company makes false or misleading statements to consumers about the nature of a product or service. Violating this law is a misdemeanor punishable with up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500.
It would appear Bera also violated the spirit of a bill Bera co-sponsored last year and helped pass out of the U.S. House. Called the “For the People Act of 2019,” H.R. 1 was drafted in response to the flood of fake online advertising that marred the 2018 Presidential election. The bill would make it illegal within 60 days of an election for any individual to distribute electronically or in other ways “materially false” information that could “mislead voters.”
The March 3rd primary is presently within that 60-day limit, but fortunate for Bera, the U.S. Senate has yet to pass H.R. 1 into law.
Asked if he might mount a formal complaint, Burdick said even if he wished to, his low-budget campaign lacks the funds to retain attorneys to press the issue. This is partly because he’s taken the most principled campaign finance pledge in the nation. This includes refusing to accept any PAC donations, corporate money or donations from individuals living outside the CA-7 district.
This is in contrast to Bera who in his career has raised roughly 80% of his nearly $20 million from outside the CA-7, according to OpenSecrets.org. This includes millions from special interests like Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Wall Street and law firms. Bera has even raised more from Chicago ($292,633) than neighboring Yolo County ($279,464).
Said Burdick, “I am proud of my fundraising pledge. I deeply believe these huge sums from corporations and special interests have a corrupting effect on our politics. It dilutes and drowns out the voice of voters in D.C., and my fundraising pledge lets voters truly believe me when I say I wish to only represent them, funded only by them.”
About Bera’s website, Burdick said it strains belief that the deceptive endorsement is due to a mere accident or oversight.
“Bera runs multi-million-dollar campaigns and has paid campaign staff who would have visited that home page many times. Plus according to Federal Election Commission filings, Bera’s campaign spent more than $70,000 in just the first three quarters of 2019 on digital strategy, website and other online services. That’s a lot to spend and overlook updating your home page, which is the face of any campaign,” he said.
Burdick has made ethical elections a centerpiece of his campaign. When he declared his candidacy in June, he created and was the first to take the “Good Campaign Oath.” The pledge encourages all candidates to run campaigns of the highest ethical nature. This includes pledging to avoid any misleading or deceptive campaign practices, to immediately report illegal campaign activities by parties here or abroad, and to ensure a harassment-free campaign work environment.
“Now more than ever, if we want a more ethical government, we need to vote for more ethical candidates,” Burdick said.
Jeff Burdick is a Progressive Democrat and resident of Arden-Arcade. To arrange an interview, call 916-200-5165 or visit BurdickForCongress.com.