Thursday, February 3, 2011
The Fair Political Practices Commission is cracking open the books of the Monterey County Republican Central Committee. An audit by the Franchise Tax Board found unreported contributions totaling more than a half-million dollars over separate two-year periods.
According to FPPC executive director Roman Porter, the commission currently has an “open investigation” into the committee. The investigation was launched in December, Porter says.
The tax board found the committee “substantially complied with the disclosure and recordkeeping provisions of the Political Reform Act,” but reported what committee secretary Paul Bruno says amount to “bookkeeping errors.”
Bruno says, “It’s my understanding that the routine audits by the franchise tax board didn’t uncover anything significant. It’s unfortunate that political campaign accounting is so complex that bookkeeping errors become commonplace.”
The FTB submits all of its audits to the FPPC, which can then choose to investigate. In 2010, FPPC’s enforcement division closed 1,308 cases, more than half of which found violations of the Political Reform Act, resulting in $650,593 in fines for the year.
FPPC can issue fines for up to $5,000, depending on the nature of the violation. At the end of December, FPPC had 391 open cases.
In 2005-06, the committee moved about $2 million in and out in contributions, about 10 times more than for any other such period since 2001.
The single largest contributor to the committee for 2005-06 was Jeff Denham, who won his race for state senate that year. In a series of small contributions, Denham’s campaign contributed a total of $1.8 million.
The single largest gift came from The Native Americans and Peace Officers IEC for $300,000. The total contributions from geographically diverse tribal and casino interests that year was $422,900.
For Sacramento-based NAPO, its gift to Monterey Republicans amounted to 80 percent of its payments.
Among the FTB audit findings are three unreported contributions to Lynn Daucher’s state senate campaign totaling $301,000. The Orange County candidate lost that race.
Committee member Bob Perkins says he’s concerned about the unreported contributions to Daucher because they correlate to the amount of the NAPO gift.
But Bruno sees no sinister motives. Allocating committee finances is “always done in a strategic way,” he says, and contributing to GOP candidates outside of Monterey County can force the opposition to funnel precious dollars into those races.
FTB found similar non-reporting errors in 2007-08, as well as $90,000 in contributions made by Abel Maldonado’s senate campaign, a sum in excess of the contribution limit. The audit states committee Secretary Chris Steinbruner “was under the impression that the $30,200 limit would not apply to contributions received from other committees that were already subject to limitations.” Steinbruner declined to comment to the Weekly.
Salinas and Monterey were the number two and five contributors to Maldonado’s 2010 campaign, respectively, based on zip code analysis conducted by the campaign finance research nonprofit MAPLight.org.
Perkins says that during his seven year tenure on the two-dozen member committee, “I do not recall the central committee ever discussing any contributions.” The committee declined to share its bylaws with the Weekly or to explain its process for determining how contributions are authorized.
Perkins, who lost a bid 14-2 in December to stay on as secretary, says “It’s important to me that we are doing things properly. If there’s any question about anything in the past, I’m certainly anxious to know so we don’t have those problems in the future.”
Bruno says 2005 is water under the bridge. “It seems like a lifetime ago. I’m worried about moving forward, not the past. We intend to be the role model for the state.”
The committee had scheduled an uncontested election for a new chairperson on Wednesday, and is partly moved in to its new headquarters in a former hot tub showroom on Del Monte Boulevard in Monterey.