Capitol Alert

California GOP lawsuit claims unlawful use of elephant logo

A campaign brochure from the Asian American Small Business PAC uses the Republican elephant logo to support GOP state Senate candidate Michaela Hertle, even though she has dropped out of the race.
A campaign brochure from the Asian American Small Business PAC uses the Republican elephant logo to support GOP state Senate candidate Michaela Hertle, even though she has dropped out of the race.

The California Republican Party has filed a lawsuit against a group that appears, at first blush, to be an ally: A PAC that spent $68,000 to promote a Republican in an upcoming legislative race.

But in its suit in federal court, the party claims the Asian American Small Business PAC – which is run by a Democratic political consultant – unlawfully used the trademarked elephant logo in mailers that went out to East Bay voters promoting Republican Michaela Hertle in the race for the 7th Senate District. Though Hertle’s name will be on the ballot March 17, she announced weeks ago she will not campaign and threw her support behind Steve Glazer, one of three Democrats vying to fill the seat that represents Concord, Walnut Creek and Pleasanton.

The California Republican Party has not taken a position in the race.

“Deceptive ads like these mislead voters and misinform them about the positions and endorsements of the California Republican Party,” party Chairman Jim Brulte said in a statement. “It’s egregious on the part of a Democratic Political Action Committee to intentionally deceive Californians with its use of well-known Republican images.”

The lawsuit is the latest move in a hotly contested special election to fill the California Senate seat previously held by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier. Powerful interest groups – including unions representing teachers, firefighters and other public employees, as well as business groups for dentists, builders and the Chamber of Commerce – have poured more than $1.8 million into independent campaign efforts. The California Teachers Association is backing Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan; the California Dental Association is supporting Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla; and PACs run by the Chamber of Commerce and a charter school group are spending to benefit Glazer.

All three are Democrats. If no candidate receives a majority, the top two vote-getters in March will advance to a runoff in May – regardless of their party affiliation.

Glazer believes the Asian-American PAC’s mailer supporting Hertle is intended to keep him from landing a spot in the top two, by encouraging Republicans to vote for her instead of him. Bill Wong, the Democratic consultant and former legislative staff member who runs the PAC, says his group wants to see Hertle succeed, even if she isn’t actively campaigning.

“She is the only business person in the race,” Wong said.

He called the GOP’s lawsuit against his group frivolous, and said he purchased the elephant logo from a company that sells stock images.

“When you purchase an image from a stock image company, you purchase the rights to use it. So we’re confused why, if that is their official logo, why it would be available for someone to purchase.”

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.

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