Former Richmond Councilman John Marquez has filed two complaints against Councilman Jim Rogers, alleging that his one-time colleague violated campaign finance laws and may have cost him re-election in November.
In a complaint filed today with the Fair Political Practices Commission, Marquez states that Rogers formed an illegal committee, loaned it $28,000 to pay for three attack mailers and failed to include proper disclaimers.
Marquez said Rogers also violated a city ordinance that limits contributions in Richmond campaigns to $2,500.
“These illegal mailings were just plain wrong,” Marquez said. “Jim Rogers is a lawyer and member of the City Council and he promoted and voted in support of Richmond’s Campaign Finance Ordinance. He should have known that it was wrong.”
Rogers said that he amended his committee type with the state last fall after he was made aware by the Contra Costa Times of a problem.
Under state campaign finance law, candidates cannot create and control independent expenditure committees. The regulation is intended to prevent elected officials from using such committees to avoid disclosure or sidestep compliance with contribution limits.
“I didn’t realize at the time that I had screwed up the paperwork,” he said. “Once it was brought to may attention, I called the (state) and followed their advice.”
As for the city’s contribution limits, Rogers said it applies to individuals who contribute money to another candidate’s committee.
“I have every right to make an unlimited expenditure on my own,” Rogers said.
Rogers formed “Beckles for Council” and used the independent expenditure committee as the platform by which he sent mailers that promoted Jovanka Beckles and targeted incumbents Nat Bates, Marquez and Harpreet Sandhu.
It’s impossible to say how much these three mailers tipped the scales against Marquez although they probably helped.
Bates was re-elected but Marquez and Sandhu failed to win their seats. Beckles did not prevail but finished fourth. Marquez came in fourth fifth place in a contest where only the top three would take office.
Rogers may have erred on the type of committee he formed but he did not attempt to hide his involvement.
He listed his endorsement of Beckles prominently on the mailers.
However, the disclaimer printed on the mailers — “Beckles for Council” — gives the false impression that she sponsored the mailers.
If Rogers is found liable for violation of state or campaign finance law, he could be fined thousands of dollars although large fines are rare.