Capitol Alert

Republicans face $30,000 fine from California campaign regulators

Then-Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, speaks at a press conference in 2011. Conway, along with her Senate counterpart, played a role in spending decisions by the California Republican Leadership Fund. The fund has agreed to a $30,000 fine by the FPPC for donation-reporting violations.
Then-Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, speaks at a press conference in 2011. Conway, along with her Senate counterpart, played a role in spending decisions by the California Republican Leadership Fund. The fund has agreed to a $30,000 fine by the FPPC for donation-reporting violations. hamezcua@sacbee.com

California’s political ethics watchdog and a Republican campaign committee controlled by party legislative leaders have agreed to a $30,000 fine to settle allegations of illegal campaign-finance disclosures by GOP candidates during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles.

The California Republican Leadership Fund raised millions to help GOP candidates in competitive Assembly and Senate races. The committee gave more than $9.1 million to several county Republican Party committees with which it had entered into fundraising agreements.

The county parties, in turn, donated the money to GOP candidates in competitive races. Under state rules, political parties can give much more money to candidates than other donors.

But according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, caucus leaders and others running the leadership fund decided which candidates should receive the money, with county party officials playing no role. That ran counter to earlier guidance the agency had given the committee. It signed off on the transfers – as long as county party officials had a say in deciding how to spend the money given in the county parties’ names.

As a result, candidates that received money from the county parties failed to note that the leadership fund was the true source, in violation of state rules.

“It does not appear the members of the participating central committees were aware the fund deviated from the advice letter,” the FPPC said. “The fund is operated by political and legal professionals who should have known the fund’s operations went beyond what the advice letter contemplated. But holding the central committees, which are made up largely of volunteer citizens with varying degrees of political experience, to (a) similar standard is not justified.”

The county committees that received money from the fund were in Alameda, Riverside, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus and Tulare counties.

The full commission is scheduled to consider the proposed fine at its Feb. 16 meeting.

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