Federal Attempts to Influence the Outcome of the June 1976 California Nuclear Referendum

EMD-78-31: Published: Jan 27, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 1978.

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Attempts to restrict or prohibit construction of new nuclear powerplants through public referenda were on several State ballots during 1976. The first referendum, the California Nuclear Safeguards Initiative, Proposition 15, was voted on and defeated by California citizens by a 2 to 1 vote on June 8, 1976. A review was conducted of information activities of the former Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) before the June 1976 referendum in California.

Prior to the referendum in California, ERDA significantly increased certain public information activities, primarily energy exhibits and publications, as well as speeches about the agency's programs and policies. High-level agency officials intended to present nuclear power in a favorable light, avoiding an objective discussion of its drawbacks. Except for speeches made by San Francisco officials, the San Francisco Operations Office had little or no control over the types of exhibits and publications given them to disseminate. With the exception of the salary and travel expenses of the speakers from the San Francisco office, funding for the agency's increased information activities was provided and administered by the headquarters offices; the San Francisco office had no control over any of the funds. ERDA did not violate any laws in funding the increased activities in California. The agency's actions were not illegal because no Federal statute prohibits Federal agencies from taking actions to influence a State election or referendum.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: If the Congress wishes to prevent Federal agencies from disseminating information to influence State legislative or election activities, Federal legislative action would be required. The legislation would have to include standards to judge the objectivity of the information to be disseminated and to determine the extent increased information activity constitutes an attempt to influence voters. The Secretary of the Department of Energy should institute his own standards controlling the actions of agency officials in State legislative or election activities and monitor their application. The Secretary should consolidate funding for all of the agency's public information activities into a single organizational unit such as the Office of Public Affairs. In its funding request, the agency should show all funding for information activities under one line item to be administered by the Office of Public Affairs.


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