Capitol Alert

California’s top political ethics cop resigns

Gary Winuk speaks in front of the Fair Political Practices Commission in September 2013.
Gary Winuk speaks in front of the Fair Political Practices Commission in September 2013.

The top cop for California’s political ethics agency is leaving the Fair Political Practices Commission, marking the second departure of an executive staff member in less than three weeks.

Gary Winuk, the FPPC’s chief of enforcement for the last five years, said he’s resigning Feb. 27 to pursue other opportunities. The FPPC’s general counsel, Zackery Morazzini, recently left the commission to become the chief administrative law judge at the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings.

Both departures follow Gov. Jerry Brown’s Jan. 13 announcement that he had re-appointed Jodi Remke to a four-year term chairing the FPPC.

In a statement, Remke praised Winuk as an accomplished and valuable “member of the FPPC team.”

“His leadership strengthened the Enforcement Division and we’re confident the division will continue its work in a robust manner,” Remke’s statement said.

“We’re eager to build on the significant progress we’ve made toward promoting governmental integrity and restoring the public’s trust in government. In the upcoming months, we will be conducting our search for a new Chief of Enforcement to continue to promote these important goals.”

Winuk joined the FPPC in 2009 and led the enforcement division as it tripled the number of cases it prosecuted. An FPPC report earlier this month said prosecutions rose from about 100 cases in 2009 to nearly 350 cases last year. Winuk went after politicians who didn’t report gifts, campaigns that laundered money and lobbyists who worked in the shadows without reporting their clients. His work led to:

▪ A $42,000 fine in 2011 against then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for not reporting event tickets as gifts

▪ A $30,000 fine in 2012 against former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ballot measure committee for paying for ads to influence budget discussions

▪ A $40,500 fine in 2013 against the California Strategies lobbying firm and three of its partners for hiding their work as lobbyists

▪ A $133,500 fine in 2014 for lobbyist Kevin Sloat for illegal campaign contributions by hosting lavish events at his house

▪ A $40,000 fine in 2014 against Sen. Tom Berryhill for violating campaign finance rules

Winuk’s work to reveal the source of $15 million in contributions to California’s ballot measure wars in 2012 drew national attention. Ann Ravel, the FPPC’s chair at the time, said the donations funneled through a series of nonprofit groups and campaign committees came through a network affiliated with conservative brothers Charles and David Koch. The FPPC announced a $1 million fine against two of the nonprofit groups in 2013.

“Gary’s tenacity and his extraordinarily hard work was what helped win that case,” Ravel said. “He was a great colleague.”

Winuk issued a brief statement about his departure:

“It has been a privilege to serve the Commission and the State,” he wrote. “I am proud of the FPPC’s many accomplishments during my time here to strictly enforce campaign and governmental ethics.”

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

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