The commission tasked with enforcing California's political and campaign finance laws got two new members Monday: a longtime aide to Democratic politicians and an attorney who solicited large donations for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.
Deputy State Treasurer Patricia Wynne, a 30-year veteran of state government, and Oakland attorney Eric Casher were each named to open seats on the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Wynne was selected for a four-year term by Secretary of State Debra Bowen, while Casher was picked by Attorney General Kamala Harris.
The appointments come during turnover for the five-member commission, which regulates the political activities of candidates, elected officials and lobbyists. Another new member, Torrance attorney Gavin Wasserman, was announced by Controller John Chiang last month.
The commission's profile has risen recently amid its pursuit of disclosure of an $11 million ballot measure contribution by an Arizona nonprofit.
That case has sparked legislative proposals to give the commission more power to demand disclosure. Commissioners are also expected to pursue an overhaul of the state's conflict-of-interest rules this year.
Phillip Ung, who advocates for stricter campaign contribution and disclosure rules on behalf of California Common Cause, said it's too soon to tell how the new appointees will affect the balance of the commission.
Unlike the three outgoing commissioners, who had either written about campaign disclosure laws as academics or worked for the commission before starting the job, the new members appear to have limited "experience and expertise in campaign finance, ethics, and lobbying reform," Ung said.
"We don't know how they stand on almost every issue," he said.
Ung also raised concerns about Casher's background as a fundraiser for Harris and Obama.
The Oakland Democrat served as chairman of the Young Professionals Finance Committee formed to support Harris' 2010 run for attorney general and was a member of the national finance committee for Obama's campaign.
Casher gave at least $650 to Harris' 2010 bid and raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama's 2012 re-election, according to campaign finance data posted on the secretary of state website and Opensecrets.org. He also hosted at least one fundraiser for Obama that featured Harris.
"When you're on the national finance committee, or a finance committee for any campaign, your job is to raise as much money as possible ... even if that means getting around contribution limits," Ung said.
Still, Ung said he hopes that Casher will "strengthen disclosure laws and not make fundraising easier for candidates."
Harris spokesman Gil Duran defended the pick. He said the selection was not connected to Casher's fundraising work, but that Harris connected with him as a fellow alumnus of University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and "recognized him as a bright young talent."
"The attorney general has full faith and confidence in Mr. Casher's judgment and his commitment to enforcing the law," Duran said.
Call Torey Van Oot, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5544. Follow her on Twitter @capitolalert.