California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has cleared former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, of accusations that he illegally lived high on the hog using campaign funds and funneled contributions through a nonprofit organization.
One FPPC letter to Nunez dated Oct. 14 deals with a complaint the commission received two years ago alleging that his and his committee’s spending “appeared inappropriate and were in violation of the personal use provisions of the Political Reform Act.” That complaint had included detailed listings of more than $155,000 in spending between January 2005 and June 2007.
Several days before this complaint was filed, the Los Angeles Times had run an article detailing some of Nunez’ spending at high-end restaurants, hotels and boutiques around the world.
The letter says the FPPC reviewed the complaint’s information, and notes that the Franchise Tax Board had audited Nunez’ campaign statements for January 2004 through December 2006, making no findings of impropriety.
“Based on our review, it appeared likely that the expenditures identified in the complaint were legitimate and would not violate the personal use laws,” the letter says. “Expenditures for items such as florists, food, gifts, meetings, fundraising and travel are routinely made by many candidates and officeholders using campaign funds, and these expenditures are reasonably related to a political, legislative or governmental purpose. For expenditures that may have conferred a substantial personal benefit on you, we determined that it appeared likely or that you would be able to establish that these expenditures were directly related to a political, legislative or governmental purpose.”
Based on that, the letter says, the FPPC didn’t conduct an in-depth investigation and has now closed its file on the matter.
In another Oct. 14 letter, the FPPC said it also has closed its file on a 2008 complaint that Nunez violated the Political Reform Act’s contribution-limit provisions in 2005 and 2006 with payments made through a nonprofit called Collective Space Inc. The complaint claimed some contributors who’d already maxed out their legal contributions to Nunez gave more money through the nonprofit for charitable events featuring Nunez and benefiting him politically.
This letter says the FPPC’s review found payments were made to Collective Space at Nunez’ behest even while he and his staff were involved with its events, but “this is not prohibited, and the Speaker’s or his staff’s involvement in the event, or the inclusion of the Speaker’s name in a charity event or its advertising, would not violate the Act or cause the payments to Collective Space to qualify as contributions.”