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Official Asks for Probe of Hidden GOP Gifts

Secretary of state says last-minute campaign donations -- $950,000 from an insurance company -- reveal a 'serious flaw' in the law.

March 11, 2003|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Secretary of State Kevin Shelley on Monday called for an investigation by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission into nearly $1 million in hidden campaign donations from a Los Angeles insurance company to the California Republican Party and county GOP committees in the closing days of last year's election.

Shelley, a Democrat, also said he will press to close what he called a loophole in campaign finance law that permitted 21st Century Insurance Group of Woodland Hills to cloak contributions it made to the state Republican Party on Oct. 21 until well after votes had been counted.

The GOP also was able to hide the source of the $950,000 in donations, which it used to pay for mailers, television spots and other activities by Republicans seeking legislative seats. Half a dozen Republican candidates who received money won their races.

The state Republican party and a representative of 21st Century have denied any wrongdoing, and said they complied with all existing state campaign finance laws.

"This is a serious flaw in California's campaign finance laws that must be addressed immediately," Shelley said.

Under Shelley's proposal, donors who contribute $1,000 or more to political parties in the final 16 days before an election would be required to identify themselves publicly within 24 hours in filings with the secretary of state. Currently, contributors who give to candidates in the final days of a campaign become public within 24 hours, but those who give to the parties do not.

In the state Senate, meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) said he and Sen. Ross Johnson (R-Irvine) plan to introduce legislation on Thursday to require the additional reporting.

Gov. Gray Davis said last week that he supports such legislation.

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