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Prop. 8 committee fined $49,000 for violations

California’s political watchdog agency today slapped the committee behind 2008’s Proposition 8 – the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage – with a $49,000 fine for campaign finance reporting violations involving more than $1.3 million in contributions.

According to the Fair Political Practices Commission, ProtectMarriage.com-Yes on 8 and its treasurer, David Bauer, “failed to file late contribution reports in a timely manner; failed to file in a timely manner, contributions of $1,000 or more received during the 90-day election cycle ending on November 4, 2008; failed to file contributions of $5,000 or more in a timely manner, in an online campaign report within ten business days of receipt; failed to properly dispose of an anonymous $10,000 contribution received on or about October 28, 2008; and failed to disclose occupation and/or employer information regarding persons who contributed $100 or more” – 18 distinct violations in all.

“The total amount of contributions not timely reported on these reports is approximately $654,424, which is approximately 2% of the total contributions received by Respondent Committee during the audit period,” commission staffers wrote of the late contribution reports, in an exhibit to the stipulation agreed to by ProtectMarriage.com. Staffers noted “there are no cases that are similar in size and amount of contributions received that have been considered by the Commission in the recent past.”

ProtectMarriage.com also “failed to disclose 188 contributions of $1,000 or more totaling $582,306 during 90-day period before the November 4, 2008 General Election within 24 hours of receipt in online campaign reports,” the exhibit said. It also failed to disclose contributions of $5,000 or more on or about July 21, 2008 and August 5, 2008, totaling $95,000.

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Ex-Richmond official files FPPC complaint

Richmond Councilman Jim Rogers

Richmond Councilman Jim Rogers

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.

John Marquez

John Marquez

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.” Continue Reading

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Get your campaign finance report tidbits here

Last night was the deadline for campaign finance reports, where candidates and ballot measures must report their activity through the end of 2008.

Keep in mind that it is a postmark deadline, so some of the reports have not yet arrived in the election offices.

But here is a quick run-down of what some East Bay candidates raised in 2008 based on reports I picked up in Martinez this morning and checked on-line at the Cal-Access, the state’s on-line campaign finance report web site:

California Legislature

State Senate District 7: Democrat Mark DeSaulnier raised $702,709. His opponent was a nominal Republican who did not campaign due to conflicts with his employer.

State Senate District 9: Democrat Loni Hancock raised $751,151. She spent most of her money in the primary in a hard-fought race with Wilma Chan.

Assembly District 15: This was unquestionably the most expensive contest in the East Bay. Democrat Joan Buchanan, who won the seat, raised $2,390,835. Her GOP opponent Abram Wilson collected $1,384,436. These totals do not include the vast sums of independent dollars spent on their behalf by various interest groups.

Assembly District 14: Democrat Nancy Skinner raised $628,321. She spent most of her money was spent in the primary where she battled against other Democrats in this heavily Democratic district.

Assembly District 11: Democrat Tom Torlakson raised $370,492. He also had a nominal Republican challenger. Torlakson returned to this seat after he termed out of the Senate, where he will serve his final term allowed under term limits. He is running for state superintendent of schools in 2010.

Click through on the right for Contra Costa County campaign finance tidbits: Continue Reading

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Two California robocalls make Top 10 ‘Hall of Shame’ list

Two of those obnoxious automated campaign phone calls from the 2008 California election made the National Political Do Not Contact Registry’s Top 10 Hall of Robocall Shame.

Ranked No. 2 is the infamous sex call financed by a Republican challenger in an uphill fight to unseat incumbent Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa.  “Mike Thompson has been a baaaaaad boy!” says a throaty woman in a breathy voice.

And in the No. 10 spot is the robocall from conservative group ProtectMarriage.com that used Barack Obama’s words about gay marriage in an anti-Proposition 8 call.

Click here for the full Top 10 list and audio links to the calls, along with a chance to vote for your favorite.

Not that you would know it but robocalls are illegal in California unless introduced by a live caller. Then why do we get so many? Campaigns get around the law by hiring out-of-state call centers beyond the jurisdictional reach of the California Public Utility Commission.

The National Political Do Not Contact project is lobbying for national legislation to bar or restrict the use of robocalls but critics say a prohibition is a violation of Free Speech rights.

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Alameda County conducts survey of voters, pollworkers

Alameda County is asking voters and poll workers who took part in the Nov. 4 election to participate in an on-line survey at the Registrar of Voters website, www.acgov.org/rov,

The department will use the results to improve serrvices, according to Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald.

The survey features 10 questions about voting methods, polling place operations and effectiveness of pollworkers.

Inspectors who run polling places, poll workers, precinct coordinators who provide support to polling sites, and personnel who staff return centers were election supplies are returned after the closing of the polls are also asked to participate in a survey.

For more information, call 510-272-6933.