Capitol Alert

Prosecution of campaign money laundering increases in California

Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, shown in March 2013.
Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, shown in March 2013.

Last year was a busy one for California’s political watchdog. The state’s ethics agency closed a record number of cases in 2014, according to an annual report released Monday, including more prosecutions for money laundering than ever before.

A $40,000 fine against Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, and fines against three county Republican central committees were among the 10 money laundering cases the Fair Political Practices Commission closed last year. That was up from just three money laundering cases the year before and four cases in the last election year, the report says.

Overall, the FPPC closed 1,005 cases with proven violations of California’s Political Reform Act last year, the report says, with about two-thirds resulting in warning letters and one-third resulting in settlement agreements. In recent years, the FPPC has significantly increased the number of cases it goes after without receiving an external complaint. The agency took on fewer than 100 proactive investigations in 2012 and opened more than 549 of them last year, according to the report.

Some of the biggest cases of 2014 highlighted in the FPPC’s year-end report include a $133,500 fine against lobbyist Kevin Sloat, a $5,000 fine against lobbyist Richie Ross, a $1,000 fine against Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a pre-election case that required Assemblyman David Hadley to return more than $40,000 in campaign donations.

A new chairwoman took leadership of the FPPC in 2014 when Gov. Jerry Brown appointed former state bar judge Jodi Remke to the position left vacant by Ann Ravel’s departure for the Federal Election Commission.

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.