Tag Archives: Fair Political Practices Commission

FPPC: local prosecutors failing to file charges in cases where public officials have used public funds for political purposes

26 Feb

Busy little bees.

The city and CARD are still worming their way toward separate tax measures. It’s starting to look like CARD will go with a parcel tax. The city, meanwhile, has yet to decide what kind of measure they will flop out – the Finance Committee is hearing a $25,000 proposal from  EMC Research to conduct a “survey”.

It is illegal to spend taxpayer money to campaign for a tax measure, and I would think it’s illegal to use tax money to hire a consultant who promises to run the campaign for you. But it seems the agencies who would investigate and prosecute this illegal behavior are squabbling over who is supposed to do it.


“With local prosecutors failing to file charges in cases where public officials have used public funds for political purposes, the state Fair Political Practices Commission is proposing their powers be expanded to allow the FPPC to prosecute misuses of taxpayer dollars.”

But as you might guess, local agencies are not too keen on being watched by outsiders – the good old boy system by which county and city administrators scratch each others’ backs is way too entrenched in Butte County.

The Times reports that “In response, the California State Association of Counties is filing a lawsuit to prevent such enforcement.”

Wow, that’s pretty blatant, isn’t it? Now the counties are spending taxpayer money making sure they  don’t get prosecuted for the illegal spending of taxpayer money. Koyaanisqatsi.

So I wrote a letter about it. Write yours too. 

“Last month the Fair Political Practices Commission revealed 34 allegations made since 2015 concerning public agencies misusing taxpayer funds for campaign purposes. Unfortunately  the agency lacks the authority to prosecute misuse of public funds, a power reserved for city and county prosecutors and the state attorney general.

Apparently, no local law enforcement agency has followed through on any of the allegations, prompting the FPPC to ask the state for the power to prosecute in these matters.

Does anyone  really believe that a local DA or city attorney would prosecute a public agency for raising taxes? FPPC commissioner Brian Hatch calls that “political suicide”.

Both the city of Chico and Chico Area Recreation District continue to spend taxpayer money on consultants who promise to help them pass their separate tax measures. Their consultant EMC Research claims “Great campaigns don’t just happen. That’s why we offer a full suite of political research and predictive analytics to help your candidates, organizations, and ballot measures succeed.”

Is this why you pay taxes? To hire people to raise your taxes?

Contact FPPC Chair Alice Germond <agermond@fppc.ca.gov> and tell her you support her efforts to impose stiffer penalties on those public agencies who flaunt the law and continue to undermine voters’ rights across the state.

You might also want to contact Chico city council at debbie.presson@chicoca.gov and the CARD board at annw@chicorec.com and let them know how you feel about paying for their campaigns to raise your taxes.

Juanita Sumner, Chico”




What is a “PAC”?

13 Apr

People have actually asked me, if I’m so crazy about local politics, why don’t I run for office? One read through the Fair Political Practices manual ought to give you your answer – there’s a million damn rules, and nailing candidates for rules is the how the FPPC pays their pensions and benefits. Failure to name a donor who was connected to a discussion Larry Wahl had as a city planning commissioner cost him about $12,000. They’re just waiting for you to put your foot in their trap, then they gotcha!

There’s all kinds of “political action committees”, and the rules and definitions  are confusing. First you better read everything about 20 times, and then you might want to talk it over with a lawyer. For example:

“A general purpose committee is a type of recipient committee – an individual or group that receives contributions totaling $1,000 or more during the calendar year for the purpose of supporting or opposing one or more state or local candidate or ballot measure(s).”   Including “two or more individuals or entities that make separate expenditures for a single product or service (for example a newspaper advertisement)”  

Right away, I notice, you have to decide, what are you forming your committee for? Will you oppose or support a candidate or an issue? There’s all kinds of different rules. You have to decide how much money you think you’ll spend –  the good news is, until you spend $1,000 on one campaign issue, you’re under the wire. The Chico Taxpayers Association is NOT a PAC or any kind of committee. We only spent about $330 on Measure J, so we were not required to file anything anywhere.  

But geez we were lucky – the idiots who wrote and supported Measure J, led by Ann Schwab, Scott Gruendl and Mary Goloff, were too cocky to think anybody would oppose them, so they never mounted ANY campaign.  We won’t get that lucky again. If we mount a Recall against any member or members of the school board, for example, they’re going to fight us. CARD is going to have a war chest too, but I’m not sure what money they will be allowed to use. And, if Lando comes forward with that sales tax increase proposal, he’ll have money and plans. I want to fight, and that’s going to take money. I’m going to spend the next few weeks studying up the situation, I’ll keep you all posted.

Here are some articles from the FPPC site:   http://www.fppc.ca.gov/serp.html?q=+rules+for+political+action+committees&cx=001779225245372747843%3A_7mfpc-fxyk&cof=FORID%3A10&ie=UTF-8&submit.x=12&submit.y=8

Sure, it gets tricky: “If more than 70% of a committee’s contributions and expenditures on candidates or measures are on a single candidate, single measure, a group of specific candidattes in the same local election or two or more measure being voted upon in the same state or local election, the committee is designated as a primarily formed committee rather than a general purpose committee.” Furthermore, “For purposes of determining whether the committee is general purpose or a primarily formed committee, the treasurer must count contributions and expenditures made to support or oppose candidates or measures during: The current two year period, beginning January 1 of the current or previous oddnumbered year and ending with December 31 of the following even-number year; or The immediate preceding 24 months. The committee must use the time period that most accurately reflects its current and upcoming activities.” 

Well, like my dad used to say, sounds like sticking your dick in a noose, but if that’s what we have to do to get our town back, I’m willing to take a shot at it.