SD7: IE group denies Koch ties, ethics claims

7th State Senate District candidate Susan Bonilla’s campaign has filed a complaint with the state’s political watchdog agency claiming a Koch-brothers-related group has broken state laws in part by violating its nonprofit status by spending money against her.

But the group – Washington, D.C.-based Independent Women’s Voice – says it didn’t do anything wrong, and hasn’t received any money from Charles and David Koch’s network of conservative organizations.

Tuesday’s actually is the second complaint Bonilla’s campaign has made to the Fair Political Practices Commission about IWV. Bonilla, a Democratic assemblywoman from Concord, faces fellow Democrat and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer in next Tuesday’s election.

The initial complaint, filed last week, claimed IWV had failed to timely disclose its spending on a video ad it had produced attacking Bonilla. IWV since has reported spending $8,600 to produce the ad, promote it online, and do some phone surveys.

The new complaint reiterates the timeliness charge, but also claims IWV incorrectly reported the anti-Bonilla ad as being pro-Glazer and – because it’s not spending on other races – didn’t properly identify itself under California law as a single-purpose committee. The complaint also claims IWV is abusing its nonprofit status by getting involved in this race.

“IRS tax filings show that Washington, DC-based Independent Women’s Voice is prohibited from making political expenditures, but that isn’t stopping this right-wing group from dumping thousands of dollars so far into the 7th Senate District,” Bonilla campaign spokesman Josh Pulliam said in a news release. “It is imperative that the FPPC step in to require out-of-state billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Los Angeles mega developers like Bill Bloomfield to play by the same rules as everyone else.”

Pulliam noted IWV received $250,000 in 2009 from the Center to Protect Patient Rights. That center and Americans for Responsible Leadership, both based in Arizona, agreed in 2013 to pay California a $1 million settlement for failing to disclose independent spending they’d done to oppose one 2012 ballot measure and support another.

But IWV issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying that although “CPPR eventually seems to have become a vehicle for Koch funding,” that didn’t happen until 2010 “when its director started working for the Kochs, well after IWV’s work was done and complete.”

Thus, IWV “has never received any funding from the Koch’s or from any Koch-related entities,” the group said in its statement. “We wouldn’t mind receiving same, but we don’t seem to be their cup of tea.”

As for the FPPC complaint, IWV said it’s a 501(c)(4) advocacy group and as such is allowed to spend on politics.

“We are not a single-purpose committee, much as the Bonilla campaign might wish we were,” the group said in its statement. “We care about ethics and about fiscal sanity, and so are working, independent of any campaign, to educate people both for Steve Glazer and against Susan Bonilla and the special interests she represents – all while accurately and scrupulously following the laws as established by the Fair Political Practices Commission.”

“It is sad that the Bonilla campaign is so desperate for sympathy and attention, and so short of an appealing track record, that they would manufacture wholesale charges to throw at Independent Women’s Voice,” the group said. “Really, isn’t it time politics got out of that gutter?

As reported, IWV’s role in this race is an infinitesimal drop in the vast, $7-million-plus ocean of independent spending that has drowned local voters in mailers, broadcast ads and other annoyances. A union-backed group has spent tremendously to benefit Bonilla, while Glazer’s big spenders include Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield and JobsPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee. IWV’s spending inspired hedge fund billionaire turned environmentalist Tom Steyer of San Francisco to give $150,000 last week to the union PAC backing Bonilla.

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.

  • Elwood

    The Bonilla campaign is a dead, stinking fish.

    They know they’re headed for an abysmal defeat and they’re so desperate you almost have to feel sorry for them.

    Hi, Stevie!

  • RRSenileColumnist

    A disgusting campaign

  • JohnW

    Only 128 hours before they count the votes! But still time for another dozen or so flyers in the mail.

  • Willis James

    What if anything are the polls saying? Any independent poll recently?
    In my way of thinking, a voter should realize that the senator will be only one of 40 votes. Thus, your choice should be based on where you think the entire senate is now.
    If you think it is too far to the left then a vote for Bonilla will only cement that trend in place as she is locked into voting for programs being pushed by the leadership and public employee unions.
    Glazer offers the chance for pulling the body a few inches towards the center or a moderate position. He is hardly right wing or even right of center candidate.
    The only thing holding the lid on the senate’s drive to promote new spending programs is Governor Brown’s veto.
    Though he is not being endorsed by Brown, Glazer is far more in line with Brown’s moderation influence. Bonilla would take office owing so much to so many.
    Never under estimate the legislature’s ability to drive this state back off the fiscal cliff we just climbed up. They have a unique ability to ignore reality and the inevitable cycles in the economy.

  • JohnW

    Haven’t see any. Polling is difficult for district races. Usually not very reliable, if done at all. According to the paper, a higher percentage of Republicans have mailed in ballots so far, which might be a positive indicator for Glazer.

    My support for Glazer is not based on the idea that Bonilla is too far left. In fact, she is generally regarded as a moderate by State Assembly standards. And I don’t agree with Glazer on some issues. He opposes reforming Prop. 13 for corporations. I think Prop 13 is rotten to the core and was surprised when the Supreme Court ruled it to be constitutional. But the most salient issues for me in this campaign are Bonilla’s diehard support of public employee unions and Glazer’s focus on public education issues such as tenure.

  • Willis James

    Agree with you on the public employee issues.
    Everyone can tell you, despite the current mini-surplus during this business cycle, that 2 of the 3 huge issues hanging over California’s future, are the massive under-funded pension obligations, and the massive unfunded retired employee medical obligations (including dental).

    Those will be crushing state and local government budgets every single year as the percentage of payroll grows annually.
    These are the kinds of things city and state leaders become “math/brain dead” about.

    The other huge pending program is Medi-Cal, when the federal government no longer picks up 90% of the tab for those newly enrolled under recent changes.

    Then you have the most incredible array of Democratic legislative leaders actually ignoring that future Medi-Cal obligation, which alone will be almost impossible to handle, and proposing ADDING to that burden a additional billion dollars a year, to cover undocumented immigrants under the same Medi-Cal program.

    “We can’t afford our present obligations, so lets add on more and cover everyone who can make it across the border”

    Every legislator should be required to take a remedial math course upon entering the job.
    They should also be supplied with a $5.99 simple calculator and instructed on how to use it.
    I am not joking. Many of these idiots have zero sense of math and finance.

    The same crew who passed legislation back in 1999 and 2000, allowing for massive increases in pensions… and allowing all the changes to be retroactive for all past years of service. Simply brain dead.
    So clear the fiscal mess it would create.

  • JohnW

    I’m no fan of Mike Huckabee. But, when he was governor or Arkansas (succeeding Bill Clinton), he said that the state’s money went for three activities: Educate, Medicate, and Incarcerate.

    It’s not just Medicaid (Medi-Cal). You have to look at the entire hyper-frangmented health care so-called “system.”

    Let’s not kid ourselves. Whether you get health care through employer-sponsored insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, VA, Tri-Care, the prisons or whatever, it is all subsidized by the taxpayers in one way or another. If we eliminated Medicaid, we would still be picking up much of that cost through the back door of the emergency rooms and in other not so obvious ways.