Victims’ group warned to adopt truthful name

A victim advocacy group’s independent expenditure committee drew a written warning from the state’s campaign finance watchdog this month for failing to adopt a name that reflects its main funding source: the state prison guards’ union.

In an Oct. 5 letter to the treasurer of the Crime Victims United Independent Expenditure Committee, Gary Winuk – chief of the Fair Political Practices Commission’s enforcement division – said the FPPC found that the committee “has not been using the correct name.

“Specifically, the (Fair Political Practices) Act provides that a committee’s failing to use a name that fully discloses the committee’s sponsors is a violation,” Winuk wrote. “In your response to our letter requiring an explanation of why California Correctional Peace Officers Association (‘CCPOA’), which provides 87.5% of the contributions to CVUIE, was not included in CVUIE’s name, you stated in a letter that, while CCPOA provides funding to CVUIE, a nonprofit, Crime Victims United, solely makes the decisions regarding the committee’s expenditures.”

Winuk went on to write that if a committee’s two sponsors can’t be considered part of “an industry or other identifiable group,” then the committee must use both sponsors’ names in its own name.

“Because crime victims and correctional peace officers cannot be accurately characterized by calling both groups ‘crime victims,’ the two sponsors are not part of the same group,” he wrote, and so “the committee must include the full name of both sponsors in the committee’s name.”

This sort of thing would come into play if the committee airs an advertisement attacking or supporting a candidate; the ad would have to carry the committee’s name, but that name is supposed to reflect the bankroll behind it. The CCPOA has an IE committee of its own, and so if it’s paying another committee’s bills, the public is supposed to know that.

Because CVUIE responded quickly to the FPPC’s inquiry with an explanation of why it had chosen the name, the FPPC issued only a warning letter; future failure to comply with the law could bring fines of up to $5,000 per violation, Winuk wrote.

The committee made substantial donations to support Proposition 83 of 2006 – “Jessica’s Law,” which enacted harsher penalties, restrictions and tracking requirements for sex offenders – as well as to other causes in the 2005-06 and 2007-08 campaign cycles, but hasn’t been very active in this 2009-10 cycle.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.