Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Janice Hahn, a Los Angeles City Councilwoman, filed a complaint today with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission claiming San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who jumped into the lieutenant governor’s race last week, has violated the Political Reform Act:
Under the unique circumstances resulting from his actions as a former candidate for Governor in this same election, Mr. Newsom, who recently announced his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor, is violating the PRA by raising and spending money in contravention of the contribution and voluntary expenditure limits imposed on candidates for Lieutenant Governor.
The clear intent of Proposition 34, the voter approved initiative in 2000, is to limit the amount of money used to influence candidates. State law imposes a higher $25,900 limit on contributions to candidates for Governor, compared with the $6,500 limit on contributions to other statewide candidates. By raising and spending large contributions up to $25,900 through his gubernatorial committee, spending all of that money, dropping out of the race for Governor, and then raising additional contributions from the same contributors for a down ballot office in the same election, Gavin Newsom has flouted state law in an unprecedented manner.
It’ll be up to the FPPC to decide, but on its face this looks like a technical tactic for a candidate who’s running scared, and something that’s not going to matter a whit to most voters. Until Newsom got into the race last week, Hahn had seemed to have the edge in this race, raking in all the right endorsements and contributions over the other guy in the field, state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter. But polling last month (albeit a poll conducted by a Newsom ally) showed Newsom would lead the pack if he got in, and when he did so last week, Florez dropped out and endorsed him.
UPDATE @ 2:09 P.M.: Attorney Tom Willis responds on behalf of Newsom’s campaign:
“Janice Hahn’s complaint to the FPPC ignores two important things: the law and the fact the FPPC has already rejected her argument.
“When Hahn’s campaign first floated this idea in the press a month ago, a reporter asked the FPPC’s Executive Director Roman Porter whether there was any merit to it. Mr. Porter said no, stating that the Political Reform Act’s contribution limits apply “per candidate, per election – it’s a separate election.” (See CalBuzz, http://www.calbuzz.com/2010/02/gavin-problem-mr-and-the-politics-of-outing.)
“The law and facts could not be more clear: Under the Political Reform Act, a candidate can open separate committees for different offices being voted on at the same election, and each of those committees is subject to separate contribution limits. There is no such thing as an aggregate contribution limit that restricts a contributor’s ability to give to more than one committee of a candidate. If the law where written as Janice Hahn suggests, many past and present candidates and officeholders would have violated the law.
“The fact is that the funds raised by Mayor Newsom for his gubernatorial committee were spent supporting his run for Governor, an election from which he withdrew from in October 2009. Now, five months later, he is running for a different office, involving different issues and different opponents. In fact, as Janice Hahn’s campaign often likes to point out, Mayor Newsom had no intention of running for Lieutenant Governor when he was a candidate for Governor. That puts the lie on her argument that Mayor Newsom was somehow using his gubernatorial committee to advance his Lieutenant Governor campaign.”
Read Hahn’s letter in its entirety, after the jump…
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