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Head of state tax board faces fines of $13,000 for campaign finance violations

Jerome Horton, who is chairman of the state Board of Equalization, has admitted to several violations — including diverting his unused campaign money to an aborted state Senate run — in an agreement he signed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

April 02, 2011|By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Sacramento — The chairman of the state tax board violated campaign finance rules when he didn't disclose his involvement in a contentious Inglewood school board race and faces fines of $13,000, according to state ethics officials.

Jerome Horton, who is chairman of the state Board of Equalization, has admitted to several violations — including diverting his unused campaign money to an aborted state Senate run — in an agreement he signed with the director of the state Fair Political Practices Commission. The commission will meet April 11 to ratify the penalties.

Horton, a former Inglewood city councilman and state assemblyman, was appointed in 2009 to the state Board of Equalization, which collects sales taxes, tobacco and gasoline levies, and other state fees.

In 2009, he controlled a political committee called Citizens to Elect Honest Officials to support Alena Cindy Giardina in her campaign for the Inglewood Unified School Board.

According to a report released by the ethics panel Friday, Horton anonymously financed three mass mailings attacking one of Giardina's opponents. Ethics officials determined that Horton's name should have been on the mailings.

He also failed to return more than $100,000 from a committee he had formed for an unsuccessful run for the Board of Equalization in 2006. State law requires that surplus campaign contributions be refunded to contributors.

Horton did not return calls for comment Friday. But the ethics panel said he told investigators that he did not understand that his affiliation with Citizens to Elect Honest Officials required that he add his name to the mailings.

Ethics investigators appeared skeptical: Their memo noted that Horton and his campaign treasurer, Kinde Durkee, are well-versed in the campaign finance laws.

Horton has since returned the campaign money to contributors as the law requires, the ethics agency said. Horton said his penalties will be paid by his campaign treasurer.

In a separate case, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who is also a former state senator, has agreed to pay $28,000 in fines for campaign finance violations involving his Senate committee. The violations include failure to properly report online $450,000 in contributions from the California Republican Party and $156,172 from county party committees.

Maldonado did not return calls for comment Friday.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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