Magazine article The New American

Ad Blitz Torpedoes California's Proposition 54

Magazine article The New American

Ad Blitz Torpedoes California's Proposition 54

Article excerpt

On July 24, when it was announced that the Racial Privacy Initiative (Proposition 54) would appear on California's gubernatorial recall ballot, it looked like the measure would easily pass. Polls showed Golden State voters favoring Prop 54 by a three-to-two margin, However, by election day, October 7, those numbers had flipped. Prop 54 went down to defeat, the victim of a last-minute television advertising blitz financed by illicit political contributions. The disinformation campaign to defeat the initiative received its biggest boost from Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. surgeon general under President Reagan.

In the final run-up to the vote, ads with a frightening warning from Dr. Koop flooded the TV channels. "On Oct. 7th, you'll make a life-and-death decision affecting every Californian," Keep gravely intoned. "Proposition 54 would block information that can help save lives. It would end prevention efforts directed to those most at-risk from cancer, diabetes and other diseases." This was pure fright peddling; Prop 54 would have done nothing of the sort.

The text of the Racial Privacy Initiative provides that the state "shall not classify any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin in the operation of public education, public contracting or public employment," or in "any other state operations, unless...." The measure then listed a number of exceptions, including "otherwise lawful classification of medical research subjects and patients."

The official analysis of Prop 54 by the California Legislative Analyst acknowledged that the measure "allows the continued collection and use of race-related data for," among other things, "medical research subjects and patients." The "No on 54" campaign managers knew that Prop 54 would not have any negative impact on health and medicine, but they also knew that the only likely way to stop the popular measure would be to scare voters with false charges. …

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