By Miriam Raftery
December 17, 2009 (El Cajon) – The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has fined Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) $20,000 for soliciting and accepting donations over legal limits. The FPPC also fined the Fresno Central Committee $29,000 for laundering money from major Anderson donors including Hamann Construction family members, Sycuan and Barona Indian bands, then funneling hefty sums back into Anderson’s campaign coffers. Anderson has since returned more than $100,000 in donations.
Fines were levied shortly after Anderson’s annual holiday party last week, where he posed for photos with hundreds of constituents. Outside the party, protesters used a loudspeaker to inform party-goers of the controversy, carrying signs that read “Jail Joel” and calling for the Assemblyman to resign.
The Assemblyman declined to answer questions from media regarding the financial scandal. A channel 10 News crew was denied entry but caught up with Anderson outside afterwards, where he stonewalled reporters, repeatedly stating that his campaign was “working really closely with the FPPC”: http://www.10news.com/news/21914692/detail.html.
Anderson scored points for hosting the party and meeting with constituents questions even amid the brewing controversy. He also told ECM’s editor that he seeks letters from voters in support of his AB 1506, which would require the state to accept state-issued IOUs in payment for state income taxes, vehicle registration fees or other state debts. The bill is currently stalled in committee but Anderson hopes to move it forward if he can show strong public support.
Some community leaders saw Anderson’s party as an opportunity to bring up concerns over serious issues with their legislator. Milt and Laura Cyphert, founders of the East County Community Action Coalition battling Sunrise Powerlink, for example, voiced concerns over firefighting cuts in Lakeside that have resulted from state budget slashing.
Within Republican circles, some supporters of Anderson voiced confidence that the campaign finance woes would not hurt his career long-term. Jeff Olson, candidate for County Tax Assessor/Recorder/Clerk, proudly informed ECM that he has been endorsed by Anderson. Anderson has previously served as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign locally and a fundraiser for Senator Hollingsworth and is still viewed as a political kingmaker among many conservatives.
Anderson is widely expected to run for the 36th State Senate seat being vacated through term limits by Senator Dennis Hollingsworth, though he has not yet filed or made a formal announcement. But with several Republicans openly campaigning for his 77th Assembly seat, it appears unlikely that Anderson intends to seek reelection to that office. Anderson did not return a call for this story.
Raymond Lutz, a Democrat who ran against Anderson in 2006, called for public financing of campaigns to reduce the influence of corporations and big-money contributors in politics. “One bright light on the horizon is the “Fair Elections” intiative on the 2010 ballot, starting with public funding of the Secretary of State,” he noted. “I hope parties will support public financing, a very important step that even the Democrats have had a hard time supporting. But we must.”