Assembly Republican leader Scott Baugh agreed Tuesday to pay a civil fine of $47,900 for nine violations of the state Political Reform Act, ending a political misconduct case that began with Baugh's election in 1995.
The fine, imposed by the Fair Political Practices Commission, concludes a long-standing controversy in which Baugh (R-Huntington Beach) once faced felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from an accusation that Republicans schemed to split the Democratic vote in a special election. But Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer sought the dismissal of perjury and campaign finance reporting charges in March and the case became a civil matter.
"The resolution of these campaign reporting errors through the FPPC is the solution I have sought for nearly four years," Baugh said. "I'm happy to have this matter resolved and laid to rest."
Baugh, who was named leader of the minority GOP delegation in April, agreed to make $2,500 monthly payments through February 2001 on behalf of himself, his campaign committee and former campaign treasurer Daniel A. Traxler. Baugh can use campaign funds to pay the fine. The settlement was approved Tuesday by a Superior Court judge.
Mark Soble, the commission's senior counsel for enforcement, said the agency was able to secure a larger fine from Baugh by pursuing the case as a civil matter rather than an administrative one. Lockyer, a Democrat, referred the matter to the commission in March after former Dist. Atty. Mike Capizzi was removed from the case by an Orange County judge.
"The commission viewed the violations as very serious, and the settlement reflects that assessment," Soble said.
The fine was among the 40 largest imposed since the commission was formed in 1974. The largest fine--$833,000--was against a political committee in 1993.
In the settlement approved Tuesday, Baugh and Traxler agreed that they violated state campaign laws by illegally accepting an $8,800 cash contribution from a Huntington Beach merchant and failed to properly report a $1,000 contribution from the spouse of an eventual Democratic opponent. The pair then returned the contribution in cash, another violation. State law forbids cash transactions of $100 or more.
In a 1995 special election, Baugh replaced former Assembly Speaker Doris Allen (R-Cypress), who was recalled by voters after she joined forces with Assembly Democrats and was named speaker of the Legislature's lower house.
Baugh was accused of helping high-ranking Republicans place a decoy Democratic candidate on the ballot as a way of splitting Democrats' share of the winner-take-all vote, a tactic critics called unethical. The candidate, Laurie Campbell, was removed from the ballot before the election by a Sacramento judge for falsifying candidacy paperwork.
Four campaign aides--including Rhonda Carmony, the former campaign manager and now wife of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach)--eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for other election law violations and received probationary sentences and fines.