Yesterday, the OC Register editorial board pulled out the anti-Anaheim-Chamber-template and published a boiler plate editorial criticizing the Anaheim City Council for approving an agreement with the Chamber to operate a Shop/Dine/Buy/Hire Local program to support Anaheim businesses, using federal CARES Act funding. The writer’s dismissal of the program as “corporate welfare,” indicating an ignorance of the program, how it works and who it helps.

Multiple studies have demonstrated the value of Shop/Dine/Buy/Hire Local programs.  Furthermore, these are precisely the sorts of initiatives the CARES Act was intended to support. The Anaheim City Council action was entirely in keeping with the intent of the CARES Act.

As it turns out, the OC Register has a much different attitude toward “corporate welfare” when it comes to their bottom line.

This morning I received an e-mail from the OC Register’s parent company, Southern California News Group, urging action to “save local newspapers” by urging legislators to support AB 323:

AB 323 states:

“Existing law also provides that whenever any official advertising, notice, resolution, order, or other matter of any nature whatsoever is required by law to be published in a newspaper, the publication is required to be made only in a newspaper of general circulation, as specified.”

“This bill would require a state agency to give preference to local news organizations, as specified, in contracts or subcontracts for the placement of marketing or outreach advertising services.”

In other words, this is corporate welfare…for newspapers. Governments spend huge amounts annually on such publishing requirements. In the pre-Internet era, the requirement made sense from the perspective of open government.

But the Internet provides a far less expensive platform for meeting those publishing requirements. The only reason to not only retain it but add a preferential mandate for local newspapers is to prop up the revenues of newspaper publishers.

On one hand, the OC Register inveighs against the City of Anaheim using federal dollars for their intended purpose of helping local businesses attract customers – while simultaneously urging support for a government mandate to support its financial bottom line.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the OC Register editorial board to weigh in against AB 323.

AB 323 does contain a provision for exempting the independent contractors who actually deliver newspapers from the onerous and misbegotten AB 5.  That provision should be retained and enacted.

But next time you read the OC Register preaching against “picking winners and losers in the marketplace,” remember it applies that principle very selectively.