The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Lawsuit: Calif. college president illegally endorsed tax-hike ballot amendment during graduation speech [VIDEO]

A taxpayer watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against the California State University system for what it claims is illegal electioneering in favor of Proposition 30, a $50 billion sales and income tax increase backed by California Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association’s lawsuit alleges that the publicly funded CSU improperly used taxpayer resources to solicit student support for the ballot initiative.

The Daily Caller has obtained a brief video of Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond endorsing the tax measure during the college’s May 12, 2012 commencement ceremony.

The California Education Code bars the use of government resources for political purposes and for “urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure.” Richmond’s remarks, part of which were captured on video, appear to directly violate that law.

In the speech, Richmond encouraged his audience to “consider supporting the tax measure that will likely be on the fall ballot.”

Reached for comment, university spokesman Paul Mann denied that those words constituted a solicitation to vote for the ballot initiative.

Richmond, he told TheDC in an email, “did not advocate for a ballot measure at Commencement and he never tells people how to vote. Rather, he encouraged people to communicate their support of higher education to their elected representatives in Sacramento.”

And despite Richmond’s request that graduation attendees “consider supporting the tax measure,” Mann insisted that he only “encouraged people to inform themselves about Prop 30,” an effort that he described as “education, not advocacy.”

Richmond did direct audience members to contact Gov. Brown and members of the California legislator, and pulled out his mobile phone to demonstrate.