CALIFORNIA–A bill that makes it a misdemeanor to insert advertisements into a newspaper without the paper’s authorization was signed into law by California Gov. Pete Wilson in late September.
The bill, sponsored by State Assemblywoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego), was written to protect newspapers from Ku Klux Klan members inserting “hate literature” into newspapers as part of their “nightriding” campaigns to recruit members.
The new law makes it a crime for any person to “attach or insert an unauthorized advertisement in a newspaper,” then attempt to redistribute or redistribute the newspaper to the public. The practice is termed “theft of advertising services,” and includes the insertion of “any form of representation or communication, including any handbill, newsletter, pamphlet, or notice that contains any letters, words, or pictorial representation,” that is done without a “contractual” agreement between the inserter and the publisher.
Persons who assist with the insertion of such fliers into newspapers will also be guilty of a misdemeanor and the law will apply to newspapers offered for sale, as well as for free publications.
The California Newspaper Publishers Association helped draft the bill to assist state papers who were “victims” of Klan “nightriding” campaigns, according to a Presstime report.
In the last two years, the KKK has used the “recruitment” tactic in the northern California cities of Lodi, Sacramento and Santa Rosa, inserting race-baiting material into the Lodi News-Sentinel, the California Job Journal and the Classified Gazette, then redistributing the papers to targeted neighborhoods.
Upon receiving the papers with the “hate literature,” residents complained to the newspapers, who took their complaints to their respective police departments. The authorities claimed they could do nothing to stop the Klan from continuing because they were not officially “stealing” the papers because they are free to the public.
According to Presstime, the CNPA said the law will let newspapers protect their reputations, but does not infringe on the First Amendment rights of the KKK because it does not limit their right to distribute literature on their own. (Sec. 538c, Calif. Penal Code)