FPPC Seeks Authority to Prosecute Counties for Campaign Fund Violations
The Board of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) unanimously voted last month to request authority to prosecute the misuse of public funds in campaigns. The 4 – 0 vote requests that the Legislature amend state law which currently gives jurisdiction to local prosecutors and the state Department of Justice.
The request is a response to a rising number of complaints the FPPC has received alleging local and state agencies have been using public funds towards campaigns, particularly those aimed at raising taxes.
Public agencies are explicitly forbidden from using taxpayer money for political purpose by state law. However since 2015 the FPPC has received 34 complaints alleging that some agencies are doing exactly that.
One such complaint comes out of Yuba county where challengers assert that the county campaigned for the passage of Measure K, a sales-tax hike, under the guise of “voter education.” Similar complaints were made against CalTrans relating to their outreach method regarding Measure 6 (Gas Tax Repeal) which voters rejected in November.
Brian Hatch of the FPPC says that violations clearly exist but the agency is hamstrung in penalizing offenders. They are given investigatory authority over the complaints but have no means to redress an issue if they determine a violation has occurred.
The FPPC has made an attempt to circumvent this challenge by attempting to go after agencies for campaign finance reporting violations, which it does have the authority to enforce. This method has already sparked a lawsuit by the California State Association of Counties.
Read more at CalMatters