San Diego Democrat Assemblyman Todd Gloria and the Fair Political Practices Commission have reached a settlement over Gloria’s violations of the California Political Reform Act — a whopping $200 fine.
If this tiny penalty suggests a tiny violation, think again. Gloria improperly funded a bogus committee for his re-election to the Assembly in order to use funds left over from his successful 2018 run for that office to now fund his campaign for Mayor of San Diego, which is totally illegal.
“The mission of the Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission is to fairly, effectively, and efficiently enforce the provisions of the Political Reform Act,” the FPPC website says. “If the case merits pursuit of a fine, the Enforcement Division will prosecute the violators and may seek penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, which must be approved by the Commissioners.” The $200 fine is comical, only this isn’t a laughing matter.
Gloria was trying to skirt the fact that the two elected offices have significant differing campaign contribution limits. The Assembly limit is $4,700 per donor and the Mayor limit in San Diego is $1,150. By transferring the 2018 Assembly funds to another 2020 Assembly fund, no reduction in the amounts contributed was required. Had that money been transferred to the Mayor committee, any donation over the City imposed limit of $1,150 would have had to be reduced.
The San Diego Union Tribune reported:
Less than a week after he filed the statement of intention, Gloria was sued by San Diego resident Mat Wahlstrom for allegedly raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for his state campaign even though he was instead seeking the mayor’s job.
In August Wahlstrom and his attorney asked a judge in San Diego Superior Court to prevent Gloria from spending those funds to support his mayoral bid. The judge declined that request.
Wahlstrom called the $200 payout a slap on the wrist.
California Globe covered Gloria’s violations, and in August interviewed one of the attorneys representing Walstrom:
Speaking with attorney Julie Biggs, who is involved in the case, she offered the following facts:
- Gloria was re-elected to the Assembly in November of 2018 and had funds remaining in his 2018 Assembly committee amounting to nearly $300,000.
- Gloria filed a Statement of Intention to run for the office of Mayor of San Diego (form 501) and established an election committee for that campaign on December 18, 2018. He formally announced his candidacy for that office and has been actively campaigning since that time.
- Apparently to avoid having his 2018 funds declared surplus and therefore subject to strict limitations as to use, Gloria filed papers to form a new 2020 Assembly committee on March 19, 2019. That filing, however, did not include filing the required Statement of Intention (form 501) to run for that office.
- Gloria transferred his 2018 Assembly committee funds to the 2020 Assembly committee on March 19, 2019.
- Gloria contributed $4,700 to the candidate who declared his candidacy for Gloria’s seat on March 28, 2019.
- The 2020 Assembly committee has raised an additional $25,000 or so and has expended about $45,000 to support other campaigns and to contribute to the Democratic party in support of events attended by Gloria as a candidate for Mayor.
- Gloria has affirmatively stated in response to questioning by another candidate for Mayor that he is not running for the Assembly seat but is running for Mayor.
- Gloria submitted his Statement of Intention to run for the Assembly seat on August 13, 2019, the day after the story was published locally.
Attorney Biggs explained that California law precludes a campaign committee from collecting contributions prior to the filing of the Statement of Intention (Form 501) to run for the office for which the committee will be raising funds. Knowing and willful violation of that law is a misdemeanor which may be punished by a fine of $10,000 or three times the amount of the contribution illegally made or accepted, whichever is higher.
Wahlstrom called the $200 payout a slap on the wrist, the UT reported. “I wish I could say I’m shocked that a politician who commits perjury and fraudulently raises corporate money for a mayoral race that does not allow corporate donors would be slapped on the wrist,” Wahlstrom said. “But I’m not: the FPPC is designed to protect officeholders first and foremost. This is what’s wrong with our system. This is why I filed suit in the first place — and why I will continue fighting to make sure that the public and Mr. Gloria both receive the justice they deserve.”
Barbara Bry, Gloria’s opponent in the Mayor’s race said, “Todd Gloria has acknowledged that he has violated the Political Reform Act, but the FPPC findings don’t address the fact that he is using this ruse to funnel $300,000 of special interest corporate and PAC contributions — which are illegal under the city’s campaign laws —into his mayoral campaign,”
“The Fair Political Practices Commission is a five-member independent, non-partisan commission that has primary responsibility for the impartial and effective administration of the Political Reform Act,” the FPPC says. This decision and penalty of $200 doesn’t smell “independent or non-partisan.”