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California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is backing a campaign to limit lawsuits filed under the state’s unfair competition law, has used that law to file suits to stop the use of his image in ads and bobblehead dolls. That makes the governor a hypocrite, say opponents of Proposition 64, the Nov. 2 ballot measure that would limit unfair competition suits. The 71-year-old California law allows individuals, interest groups, other companies and prosecutors to sue to stop practices that allegedly give a business an unfair advantage over competitors or defraud consumers. “If the governor feels it’s OK to file lawsuits under this law to protect his image, why isn’t it OK to file a case under the statute … when water and air are threatened with contamination but no money has been lost?” asked Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a Santa Monica-based consumer group. “The governor is being very two-faced,” Court said Tuesday. Schwarzenegger’s legal affairs secretary, Peter Siggins, said the governor’s endorsement of Proposition 64 is an attempt to head off frivolous lawsuits, not to prevent people with legitimate complaints from filing unfair competition cases. Supporters of the current unfair competition law say it’s been used to stop consumer rip-offs and environmental damage, among other things. Critics say the law has also been used by unscrupulous attorneys to shake down businesses to settle lawsuits filed because of minor violations, such as failing to post a business license or using the wrong print size in ads. Proposition 64 would bar anyone other than the attorney general or a local prosecutor from filing an unfair competition lawsuit unless they could show they had been injured or lost money or property because of the business’ conduct. The ballot measure also would require that unfair competition suits filed for a group of people by someone other than the attorney general or another prosecutor qualify as class-action cases. This year the governor cited the unfair competition law in a lawsuit filed to stop an Ohio company from selling bobblehead dolls depicting him holding an assault rifle. In a settlement, Ohio Discount Merchandise Inc. agreed to produce Schwarzenegger bobbleheads without the gun, and to donate a portion of the sales to Schwarzenegger’s after-school program. John Edgell, the Washington lobbyist and former Democratic congressional aide who came up with the idea for the gun-toting bobblehead, wasn’t happy with the settlement. He’s planning to sell a “girlie man” bobblehead depicting Schwarzenegger in a pink dress. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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