California law generally allows politicians to dip into their campaign coffers rather liberally, so long as the payment is reasonably tied to a political, legislative or governmental purpose.
The former Mayor of Menifee is learning the hard way that a wedding in Malibu isn’t a legitimate campaign expense in the eyes of the state’s political ethics watchdog.
The Fair Political Practices Commission will vote next week on more than $100,000 in fines against two California politicians, Scott Mann of Menifee and Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson, in separate cases related to the use of campaign funds to cover personal expenses.
Mann illegally tapped campaign funds to pay for vacation, meals, tax liabilities, car registration and “expenses related to a family wedding in Malbu” on 147 occasions between December 2009 and June 2014, according to a stipulation between the mayor and the FPPC staff.
The agency said the personal expenses cost Mann’s campaign account $44,894 raised for his city council race in 2010 and subsequent mayoral campaigns in the Riverside County town of less than 100,000 residents during 2012 and 2014. Mann also failed to maintain records of his spending and faces a $60,000 penalty.
In an unusual twist, Mann agreed to allow the FPPC to issue a press release detailing his misdeeds ahead of the November election for mayor. He lost.
Meanwhile, Peterson spent $66,372 of his campaign funds on meals, gas, clothes, movies tickets, hotel rooms, cell phone bills and other personal expenses from January 2011 until October 2015. Peterson, who was elected District Attorney in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, later reimbursed his committee for all of his personal expenses, but still faces a $45,000 fine.
The five-member commission is expected to vote on the proposed penalties at its Dec. 15 meeting. The agency will also rule on a $6,000 fine against the online marketplace eBay for failing to file timely lobbyist employer disclosures.