By Miriam Raftery
October 8, 2009 (San Diego’s East County)—The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has launched an investigation into allegations that Assemblyman Joel Anderson’s campaign may have received funds funneled illegally through the Fresno County Republican Central Committee. (Read details.) Anderson (R-Alpine) has announced plans to run for the State Senate.
The news sparked heated comments from Simon Mayeski, a state board member of Common Cause, a citizens watchdog organization committed to holding government officials accountable for their actions and encouraging citizen participation. “It is extremely discouraging that the constant need to raise campaign dollars now places Joel Anderson, my very own Assembly representative, under the investigative eye of the FPPC,” Mayeski, a San Diego resident, told East County Magazine. “It is even worse that he is under investigation because of the Commission’s own decision, and not by complaint of another politician.”
The FPPC probe was announced yesterday in response to a San Diego Union-Tribune article revealing that major supporters of Anderson had donated thousands of dollars to the Fresno Central Committee, which in turn made hefty donations to Anderson’s campaign days later. In addition, Anderson sent identical contributions of $32,400 from his 2008 Assembly campaign to three Republican county committees in central and northern California; each committee then donated similar amounts to his 2010 state Senate campaign fund.
California law places strict limits on how much money an individual donor or company may give to a candidate. While there are no limits on how much a Republican central committee may give to a candidate’s campaign, any coordination between private donors , the committee and the campaign would be illegal.
One of the donations was a $30,000 gift from Hamann family, owners of an East County construction firm, to the committee in May. A few days later, the committee gave Anderson $28,500, the newspaper reported. Hamann told the Union-Tribune he couldn’t remember why he gave such a large sum to the Fresno GOP. Similarly, the Barona Band of Mission Indians from Lakeside gave $10,000 to the committee, and the committee gave Anderson $9,500.
While it will be up to the Commission to determine whether the law was violated, Mayeski observed, “The bigger question here is`Why we don’t do something to remove the fundraising distraction and worse that forces every person running for state office in California to spend so much time and energy looking for money?’”
Mayeski believes public financing of elections should be adopted in California, as Maine and Arizona have already done. In June 2010, voters will consider a ballot initiative approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger to create a pilot project for public funding of candidates running for California Secretary of State. Mayeski added that the clean elections pilot project would be “paid for by increasing the state registration fee for lobbyists – sweet!”
If clean elections are adopted in California, Mayeski predicts, “We can elect folks who are responsive to us—not the big wallets and big purses with the big checkbooks!” Ultimately, proponents of clean elections hope to extend public financing to candidates for Assembly, State Senate, and Governor. (For more information, visit www.caclean.org.)
Anderson did not return ECM requests for comment n this story. He has also declined comment to the San Diego Union-Tribune and other media. Raymond Lutz, Anderson’s Democratic opponent in the last election, also declined our request for comment.