The porn industry has agreed to pay a $61,500 fine for illegally accepting donations from foreign entities in its effort to oppose a 2012 Los Angeles County ballot measure to require adult film actors to wear condoms.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission will consider the penalty, the largest fine of the year, at its Dec. 17 meeting.
According to a commission staff report, a campaign committee opposing the 2012 measure called “No on Government Waste” illegally took in $343,000 in donations of foreign money, a violation of the the state’s Political Reform Act.
Galena West, the agency’s chief of enforcement, said she hopes the size of the proposed penalty will deter acceptance of foreign money by campaign committees during the coming election season.
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“We're just trying to put the word out that we're watching this closely,” West said.
The Los Angeles County initiative, Measure B, passed with almost 57 percent of the vote. Much of it remains tied up in court, though, and it’s unclear when its provisions will be fully enforced.
Proponents, led by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, now want to expand the condom requirement beyond the industry’s Los Angeles County base. The California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act qualified for the November 2016 statewide ballot last month.
Diane Duke, CEO of the industry’s Free Speech Coalition, has called the initiative unnecessary. Porn actors already undergo regular testing for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, she said in a statement last month, warning that the measure would expose actors to blackmail and lawsuits.
Duke also was the treasurer and principal officer of No on Government Waste. According to the commission staff report, Manwin USA, an adult film company based in Burbank, and Froytal Services Limited, a Cypress-based porn company, are part of Manwin Licensing International S.A.R.L., a Luxembourg-based Internet video and online advertising business that specializes in pornography, according to the FPPC.
Manwin International was managed by Fabian Thylmann, who is not a U.S. citizen or “lawfully admitted permanent resident,” the commission staff report said.
Industry opponents’ actions appear “to have been something less than deliberate concealment—albeit more than an inadvertent oversight,” investigators wrote in a staff report accompanying this month’s agenda. “Nevertheless, the misreporting deprived the public of information regarding the actual source of the contribution.”
According to the commission, the No on Government Waste committee initially accepted $75,000 from Froybal. It refunded that money. Then the committee received $268,000 in donations from Manwin USA. But that money actually came from the Luxembourg parent company at the direction of Thylmann, according to investigators.
The evidence included an email between Duke and a No on B consultant, Sue Burnside, who wrote, “Even if the parent company is abroad, as long as they have a USA company and that is where the check come [sic] from we are 100% legal.” Investigator interviews further established that the donations were illegal, the FPPC’s West said.
In other action Dec. 17, the panel will consider dual $5,500 fines against state Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, and Stone supporter Daniel Stephenson, a real-estate developer, for campaign-finance violations.
Stephenson hosted two fundraisers for Stone in private suites at Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Lakers games. The fundraisers cost $7,808 and Stephenson business entities gave another $8,200 in donations, for a total of $16,000. State law capped donations from one source at $8,200 during the 2014 election cycle.
Stone failed to report the cost of the fundraisers, which the campaign called an oversight. Stone also said he was unaware of the problems posed by the aggregated contributions from Stephenson’s business entities.