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California GOP violated campaign finance rules, watchdog says

August 30, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • Members of the state redistricting commission during a meeting in 2011. The state Fair Political Practices Commission has issued a warning letter to the California Republican Party for not properly disclosing contributions to a campaign against part of the redistricting plan.
Members of the state redistricting commission during a meeting in 2011.… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO -- The California Republican Party violated state campaign finance rules by failing to properly disclose its contributions last year to a campaign against newly drawn state Senate districts, the state’s ethics agency has concluded.

In all, the state GOP provided $1.9 million in contributions, in-kind services and loans to the group Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR), which qualified a ballot measure to overturn the new state Senate redistricting maps.

After the Supreme Court found the maps were properly drawn, FAIR dropped its opposition to the redistricting plan. An investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission found that the state party failed to meet deadlines for disclosing five contributions to FAIR.

“By failing to both timely file required ballot measure contribution reports and properly itemize contributions on those contribution reports, your client has violated the [Political Reform] Act,” FPPC enforcement chief Gary Winuk wrote to GOP attorney Charles Bell Jr. in a letter released this week.

Winuk said he decided to issue the state party a warning letter rather than seek fines because the contributions were eventually filed well before the election.

Bell said in an email Thursday that the problem was “corrected within a few days and the FPPC was satisfied there was nothing material.”

The investigation was launched based on a complaint by Phillip Ung, an advocate for California Common Cause. “We would like to see the FPPC issue more fines, especially in cases where violating public transparency is the crime,” Ung said Thursday. “Statewide parties are not amateur entities and they shouldn't be treated with kid gloves.”

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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