California FPPC Chief of Enforcement Demoted Without a Peep: What Led Up to Demotion?

FPPC chief’s relationship with CDPH deputy director and chief counsel

July 27, 2023, a press release was issued by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) naming the new Chief of Enforcement.

“The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) today announced the appointment of James M. Lindsay as Chief of Enforcement.

Lindsay comes to the FPPC from the California Children and Families Commission (CCFC), where he served as Chief Counsel since August of 2022. In this position, Lindsay advised the Commission, Executive Director, and staff on all legal matters, including Political Reform Act and Bagley-Keene Act compliance and training, as well as being responsible for leadership, litigation, and mentoring responsibilities. Prior to that, Lindsay spent almost four years as the lead litigation attorney at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). There, he had primary responsibility for administrative hearing matters, writs and appeals, and helped lead efforts to improve litigation practices and organizational improvements.

“I’m extremely pleased to announce Mr. Lindsay’s appointment to this important role in the agency,” said FPPC Chair Richard C. Miadich. “We’re thrilled to have someone with extensive litigation experience to lead our Enforcement team. Mr. Lindsay’s experience in government policy and operations will greatly help our ongoing efforts to promote the public’s trust and maintain our leading National role in the realm of government ethics and campaign finance.”

In addition to his roles at CCFC and CalSTRS, Lindsay spent more than 20 years in the private sector at law firms in Folsom, Modesto, and Dublin/Stockton where he specialized in numerous aspects of consumer, insurance, business, real estate, personal injury, and family law. Lindsay received his law degree from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans, LA and his undergraduate degree in Economics from California State University, Fresno.

“We have a dedicated, professional and experienced staff and we are confident James’ breadth of experience in other aspects of California’s political and legal climate will only improve and enhance the Division’s overall capabilities,” said Chair Miadich.

Assistant Enforcement Division Chief Chris Burton will remain acting chief until August 28, 2023.

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is California’s governmental ethics and campaign disclosure agency.”

Per an email from Ms. Tara Stock, Intake Manager, Enforcement Division, Ms. Angela J. Brereton, Former Chief of Enforcement has been reassigned as Assistant Chief of the Enforcement Division.

Information regarding Ms. Brereton’s reassignment remains unclear. However, Executive Staff Reports from the January 26, 2023 Commission Hearing highlight negligence in duties.

According to deed records for the County of Sacramento, Ms. Brereton shares a mortgage with Mr. Hugh A. Brereton.

A class of 2000 announcement by UC Davis School of Law further confirms the relationship between these two individuals.A press release issued by Governor Newsom’s Office in February 2020 stated the following:

“Hugh “Drew” Brereton, 44, of Sacramento, has been appointed deputy director and chief counsel of the California Department of Public Health. Brereton has served as deputy director and chief counsel for the Office of Enforcement at the Department of Managed Health Care since 2016, where he was assistant chief counsel from 2014 to 2016 and an attorney III from 2008 to 2014. Brereton was an attorney at Katchis, Harris and Yempuku from 2002 to 2008 and at Pagliero & Associates from 2001 to 2002. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California Davis, School of Law. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $195,168. Brereton is a Democrat.”

Although I currently have approximately a dozen cases open with the FPPC, Ms. Brereton has continually denied sworn complaints regarding violations of the Political Reform Act surrounding public health.

I previously reported to the FPPC that State Treasurer Fiona Ma is personally invested in pharmaceutical companies as detailed on her statement of economic interest, received donations from Pfizer and established a statewide pooled money investment account with the aforementioned entity. Why did Ms. Brereton deny this is a conflict of interest, and does her spouse’s position with the CDPH present bias?

My article in The California Globe further elaborates on these concerns: Health or Heredity? COVID-19 Vaccines & California’s History of Eugenics:

“According to the California State Treasurer’s website, “through the Pooled Money Investment Account (PMIA), the State Treasurer invests taxpayers’ money to manage the State’s cash flow and strengthen the financial security of local governmental entities. PMIA policy sets as primary investment objectives safety, liquidity and yield. The PMIA has three primary sources of funds: the State general fund; special funds held by State agencies; and monies deposited by cities, counties and other entities into the Local Agency Investment Fund (LAIF).”

“As a part of the 2023 investment portfolio, the State Treasurer’s Office has included Johnson & Johnson for both corporate bonds and commercial paper. The public at large may consider this to be a conflict of interest given that State Treasurer Fiona Ma possesses a personal investment in the pharmaceutical giant. Treasurer Ma’s spouse also holds a retirement account with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) Financial Group. On February 16, 2023, SVB Securities held a Global Biopharma Conference in conjunction with Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and an array of other pharmaceutical corporations. Due to the recent SVB collapse and uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, California residents may seek deeper answers into the true origins and legitimacy behind the bank failure. The lack of transparency from the Biden and Newsom Administration leaves the people with unrest.”

Hundreds of Local Officials Failed to File State Financial Reports, County Records Show

Even though annual financial disclosures are critical to promoting open government and limiting potential conflicts of interest, hundreds of public officials and consultants neglected to file their required State Form 700 reports this year, county records show.

Experts say the disclosures, which thousands of public officials must file annually under the Political Reform Act, are an important way to keep voters informed.

Regulators also take issue with public officials who fail to report their assets, revenue and any gifts they receive, often imposing penalties that reach into the thousands of dollars.

When The Union-Tribune reported last month that Jesus Cardenas, chief of staff to Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, owns a political consulting firm that serves clients with interests before the city of San Diego, the information was largely based on public disclosures.

Two years ago, the newspaper reported on conflicts in financial statements filed by front-running San Diego City Council candidate Kelvin Barrios. The stories derailed his campaign, and Barrios dropped out of the race.

State Form 700 was also cited by the City Attorney’s Office during litigation over the city’s lease of the Ash Street office tower. Lawyers for the city said broker Jason Hughes should have submitted while advising three successive mayors on real estate deals — and collecting $9.4 million in fees.

This year, according to the clerk of the county Board of Supervisors, who is charged with tracking local compliance with the Form 700 filing rules, 224 elected and appointed officials countywide did not submit the annual Form 700s by the April 1 deadline.

“The clerk of the board took numerous steps to ensure filers filed timely,” clerk Andrew Potter informed supervisors in a memo this spring.

Reminder notices were sent to all non-compliant officials in February and twice in March, notifying them of the looming deadline and encouraging them to comply with state law, Potter said.

Subsequently, “these individuals are being referred to the district attorney and the FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) for noncompliance,” he wrote.

The hundreds of non-filers in San Diego County range from members of the grand jury and employees of the regional planning agency SANDAG to school districts and a tiny North County water authority.

Some county agencies also appear on the list, including the Local Agency Formation Commission, which regulates boundaries between public agencies, and the Leon L. Williams Human Relations Commission, which promotes mutual respect and integrity.

Michael Workman, the spokesperson for San Diego County, said it is the employers’ responsibility to maintain current and accurate lists of people who are required to submit a statement of economic interest. He said the county will work with agencies that seek guidance.

“All agencies that file with us have access to a management module where the lead coordinator for Form 700s can update the information for their agency’s filers,” Workman said by email. “In the fall of each year, we reach out to all agencies to ask that they update their filers’ information to ensure the notifications are sent to the filers appropriately.”

SANDAG — which led all local agencies in number of non-filers, with more than 80 experts and consultants on the list — said its obligation is to inform members of the filing requirement, but the county is responsible for determining their filing status.

“None of our board of directors or policy advisory committees are on the list,” spokesperson Stacy Garcia said by email. “For working group members, SANDAG follows up with staff liaisons to reach out to any listed members to ensure compliance.”

Garcia said the planning agency would follow up with — and possibly penalize — consultants who have yet to report their financial interest as required.

“SANDAG policy is to restrict non-filer consultants from working on or participation in any project or program under their contract(s),” she wrote. “SANDAG follows up with its consultants to ensure compliance with the filing requirements.”

The Southwestern Community College District, with 10 administrators and consultants who did not submit annual disclosures, said officials had sent the county their list of required filers in March but college officials acknowledged it was not correct.

“The district was able to add requisite employees but was unable to delete employees/ consultants who were no longer employed by the district as of calendar year 2022,” spokesperson Lilian Leopold said in a statement.

“Your list reflects those employees/consultants,” she added. “The county clerk must not have updated their list per our updates.”

Workman contradicted the Southwestern Community College District response.

“The county does not have any record of Southwestern College providing updates to their list of filers,” he wrote. “The individuals that Southwestern College indicated are no longer employed are still required to file leaving-office statements.”

An Oceanside Unified School District official also blamed San Diego County for the 11 names appearing on the clerk’s record.

“The list you provided is filled with errors and needs to be updated,” spokesperson Donald Bendz said in an email. “The only three people who are still with OUSD are Sherry Freeman de Leyva, Perry Alvarez (and) Raquel Alvarez. Their statements of economic interest forms have been turned in.”

The county confirmed that two filings were turned in after the Union-Tribune asked Oceanside schools officials about the non-filers.

“We received electronic filings from Perry Alvarez and Raquel Alvarez, who both filed their forms (Tuesday),” Workman said. “We still do not have a filing for Sherry Freeman de Leyva.”

According to her LinkedIn social media profile, Freeman de Leyva is retired from the Oceanside Unified School District.

Sean McMorris of California Common Cause, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting good government practices, said the Form 700 disclosures are critical in the system of checks and balances that makes up public administration.

The annual reports help prevent conflicts of interest and promote transparency by requiring public officials to declare their salary ranges, property holdings, stocks and other investments and gifts from companies or organizations, he said.

“We want our public officials to conduct business based on the best interests of the public, not themselves,” McMorris said.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces the Political Reform Act rule requiring the annual disclosures, takes violations seriously. Almost every month, the commission imposes penalties on local and state officials who fail to disclose their personal holdings.

Earlier this month, for example, a former planning commissioner in the Central Valley city of Sanger was fined $12,000 for failing to submit a Form 700 disclosure after being contacted about the oversight more than 20 times.

Commission spokesperson Jay Wierenga said regulators had no record of receiving the list of non-filers from San Diego County, but the enforcement team was running some of those names through their database.

He said the disclosures are critical to informing the public about the potential motivations driving elected officials and policymakers.

“The law in California rests on a few basic tenets, one of which is disclosure,” Wierenga said. “Form 700s are there not only to provide transparency to the public but also to hold public officials accountable in their decision-making.”

The District Attorney’s Office confirmed it received the memo from the San Diego County board clerk but has not yet taken any action on the information.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

Give the FPPC the Power to Fight Illegal Spending

In recent years, taxpayers throughout California have registered numerous complaints about government entities using taxpayer dollars for political advocacy, a practice that is illegal under both state and federal law. Because progress in stopping these violations has been slow, taxpayers will be pleased to hear that the Fair Political Practices Commission sent a request to the California Legislature that it “consider legislation amending the Political Reform Act to authorize the Commission to bring administrative and civil actions against public agencies and public officials for spending public funds on campaign activity.”

Taking up that challenge is Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens — co-author of this column — who has introduced Assembly Bill 1306, which is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Taxpayers hope that this commonsense, non-partisan proposal becomes law.

Here’s the background. The free speech clauses of the federal and state constitutions prohibit the use of governmentally compelled monetary contributions (including taxes) to support or oppose political campaigns because, as noted in Smith v. UC Regents, “Such contributions are a form of speech, and compelled speech offends the First Amendment.”

Moreover, as determined in Stanson v. Mott, “use of the public treasury to mount an election campaign which attempts to influence the resolution of issues which our Constitution leaves to the ‘free election’ of the people … presents a serious threat to the integrity of the electoral process.”

While taxpayer organizations have been successful in several lawsuits challenging these illegal expenditures, they haven’t fully deterred lawbreaking by the state or local governments, for two separate reasons.

To read the entire column, please click here.

A crackdown on misuse of taxpayer money?

TaxesAs documented in this space on several occasions, local government officials throughout California have been thumbing their noses at a state law that prohibits them from using taxpayer funds for political campaigns.

Officials in cities, counties, school districts and special purpose districts routinely hire campaign management firms, often with multi-million-dollar fees, to manage every stage of their ballot measures seeking voter approval of new taxes or new bond issues (which require new taxes to service).

The consulting firms conduct polling of local voters and then draft the ballot measures to conform to what those polls indicate voters would find acceptable. The political pros then design campaigns for the measures, under the guise of “education,” to persuade voters to approve them.

Typically, the “education” campaigns are misleading, promising that the proceeds of the taxes and bonds will be used for popular facilities and services, such as police and fire protection or parks, while ignoring the underlying real reasons, such as to cover rapidly increasing employee pension and health care costs.

The consultants often boast of their high passage rates, and with good reason, because most of the carefully crafted and marketed measures do, in fact, win voter approval.

The practice is, as mentioned earlier, illegal. A specific state law prohibits it. But it continues unabated because local prosecutors, who sometimes share in the proceeds of the measures, have consistently refused to pursue cases against their fellow politicians.

Lately and belatedly, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has dived into the increasingly blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars, but it lacks the power to prosecute the miscreant officials. Rather, it has in some cases taken the indirect action of trying to compel the offending governments to file campaign donor reports.

Filing such reports would be tantamount to admitting that the law had been broken, so of course, local officials have dragged their feet on complying.

Local prosecutors appear to be adamant in turning a blind eye to this obvious law-breaking, so the FPPC is now asking the Legislature to give it the power to prosecute cases.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat from Bell Gardens, has introduced Assembly Bill 1306, which would give the FPPC the power to bring civil and administrative actions against those who misuse public funds.

“The rules should apply to everyone,” said Garcia, who’s been an outspoken advocate of political reform. “I’m all for giving the FPPC more teeth to bite down on those who misuse taxpayer resources.  It’s quite convenient that the campaign laws enforceable by the FPPC didn’t include public officials or public entities within our own government entities. The FPPC noticed this gap in their enforcement ability and this bill now sends a clear message that California won’t tolerate public agencies, or elected officials, spending taxpayer dollars on campaign activities.” 

“This bill simply holds those in power to the same standard we hold those who are not,” Garcia added.  “Government shouldn’t get a pass just because it makes the rules. Fair is fair and we must hold individuals, and entities, accountable by empowering our oversight entities to dole out more than a fix-it ticket fine. No one is above the law, including our government.”

What happens to Garcia’s bill as it winds its way through the Capitol will be very instructive. Logically, legislators should be willing to put some teeth into the law they enacted, but logic doesn’t always prevail in politics.

If lawmakers continue to let their counterparts in local government off the hook, they should be ashamed of themselves.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

A Crackdown on Misuse of Taxpayer Money

TaxesAlthough state law specifically prohibits public officials from using taxpayers’ money for political campaigning, they have been doing exactly that throughout California.

Local governments hire “consultants” to poll voters on what tax and bond measures they would find acceptable, to draft those proposals accordingly and, finally, to run so-called “information” campaigns to persuade voters to approve them.

It’s so blatant that firms seeking lucrative contracts openly boast of their successful campaigns, eliminating any doubt that they are truly political operatives.

The practice has ballooned because local prosecutors and the state attorney general’s office ignore complaints about its illegality. Indeed, local district attorneys often benefit from the higher taxes.

Finally, however, we may be seeing some effort to sanitize this very stinky phenomenon which, if left unchecked, will only become more commonplace.

Last month, the state Fair Political Practices Commission took a potentially significant action against the Bay Area Rapid Transit District for doing what it and other local governments have been doing.

The FPPC voted unanimously to impose a $7,500 fine on BART for failing to report its spending on a bond issue as a campaign contribution. It also asked the attorney general and Bay Area district attorneys to prosecute the transit district for violating the law prohibiting the use of public funds for political campaigns.

“It’s not the total (amount) of what was used; it’s the concept of misusing public funds,” FPPC chairwoman Alice Germond said at the commission’s December meeting. “We want to send a warning and not create a precedent that it’s a minor, ‘slap on the wrist’ kind of thing.”

The action stems from a proposed $3.5 billion bond issue, Measure RR, that voters in the three-county district approved two years ago by a 70 percent margin. The “information campaign” for the bond included a video, featuring Golden State Warriors player Draymond Green, that the FPPC said was acceptable, while concluding that two other videos and text messages to voters were clearly advocacy.

BART paid a public relations firm, Clifford Moss LLC, $99,000 to craft its measure before the item was placed on the ballot, and the same firm then directed the supposedly independent campaign for the bond measure.

The FPPC acted on a complaint from Jason Bezis, a Lafayette attorney. It’s similar to complaints that have been filed about other local bond and tax measures, including those in Los Angeles County, by taxpayer advocacy groups.

After the FPPC acted, a BART spokeswoman, Alicia Trost, told the Bay Area News Group that the campaign errors were “accidental.”

“We have been and will continue to be committed to following the law,” Trost told BANG. “We accept their finding.”

While state law allows agencies to publish accurate information about their proposals, they are not allowed to advocate their passage, and that’s the line that BART and other agencies have obviously and arrogantly been crossing.

If they use public money for campaigns, they will, the FPPC implies, be treated like other financiers of political campaigns and be required to file reports. If they file such reports, however, they will be admitting, in effect, that they are violating the law prohibiting such spending.

That’s where the prosecutors should come into the picture. They should do their duty, enforce the law and seek personal fines from the officials involved. And the Legislature could, and should, invalidate any local measure that’s passed when those officials ignore the law.

olumnist for CALmatters. 

FPPC Ups The Ante On Illegal Expenditures

money bagOver the last several years, this column has exposed multiple instances of government entities using taxpayer dollars for political advocacy, a practice that is illegal under both state and federal law.  Because progress in stopping these violations has been difficult, taxpayers will be pleased to hear that on December 20th, California’s campaign watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, conducted a hearing on illegal activity by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART).

The FPPC stated that BART used public funds to pay for a campaign of “YouTube videos, social media posts, and text messages to promote Measure RR, which authorized BART to issue $3.5 billion in general obligation bonds.” Under California law, spending money on a political campaign to pass the bond measure caused BART to qualify as an “independent expenditure committee” and required it to file campaign finance reports, but the transit agency ignored the requirement.

“BART failed to timely file two late independent expenditure reports in the 90-day period preceding the November 8, 2016 General Election; failed to timely file a semi-annual campaign statement for the period covering July 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016; and failed to include a proper disclosure statement in its electronic media advertisements,” the FPPC said.

The FPPC imposed a fine of $7,500, which critics of BART, including Senator Steve Glazer, rightfully complained was inadequate and no deterrent to future misconduct with taxpayer funds. In fact, the minimal fines may incentivize illegal activity because the ROI (return on investment) is frequently in the millions, if not billions, of dollars. Not only that, because the fines themselves are paid with taxpayer dollars, there are rarely any real-world consequences imposed on public officials who misappropriate public funds for political advocacy.

But things may be different now.

To read the entire column, please click here.

State ethics commission poised to help Democrats fight off recall effort

As reported by the L.A. Times:

The state’s campaign watchdog agency is poised on Thursday to open the spigot for large political contributions that would help an embattled Democratic state senator fend off a recall campaign, a change that opponents say is tainted by secret talks between a commissioner and a Democratic attorney.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission last month began the process of lifting the $4,400 limit on political contributions by elected officials to anti-recall campaigns. The change was requested by Democrats to help state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), who is facing an effort to remove him from office after his vote in April for a $52-billion gas and vehicle tax package.

FPPC Commissioner Brian Hatch is facing criticism for communicating before the vote with an attorney for the Senate Democrats, Richard Rios, holding a private meeting and exchanging emails and text messages that appeared to strategize on passing the policy change.

Hatch, a Democrat and former firefighters’ union lobbyist, defended his communication with Rios, saying it was needed to counter what he saw as a bias in favor of keeping the existing policy — which Hatch said he saw as unfair — by commission staff and FPPC Chairwoman Jodi Remke. Hatch challenged the notion that a campaign to recall an official could receive unlimited contributions while those fighting a recall were subject to limits. …

Click here to read the full article

Ethics commissioner Brian Hatch had private meetings with Democrats over recall election rules

A former labor lobbyist who serves on California’s political watchdog agency met privately, talked on the phone and exchanged text messages with a lawyer working for Senate Democrats while advocating for the agency to flip a longstanding legal interpretation of campaign finance law in favor of Sen. Josh Newman.

The conversations between California Fair Political Practices Commissioner Brian Hatch, a Democrat and former lobbyist for the firefighters union, and Richard Rios, an attorney representing Senate Democrats, were revealed in a public records request seeking communications about the matter.

Senate Democrats are asking the FPPC to reverse its position on contribution limits in recall elections. If the agency approves the change next week, state candidates would be able to give unlimited sums of money to Newman. The Fullerton Democrat is fighting a Republican-led recall to oust him and upend Democrats’ supermajority dominance in the state Senate.

FPPC commissioners are prohibited from speaking privately with interests in enforcement cases. Commissioners are allowed to meet or discuss the agency’s legal opinion on state law and rule-making decisions with outside parties, but such one-on-one meetings are unusual and are supposed to be disclosed. None of the other commissioners reported private meetings with outside groups in response to the records request.

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Jim Brulte: State ethics commission a partisan tool of Democrats

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California’s supposedly non-partisan political watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has exposed itself as a partisan tool of the Democrats.

First the Democrat-controlled legislature changes the law to protect Senator Josh Newman from a recall election his constituents are calling for. And today the FPPC overturns years of established legal precedents, over the objection of their own legal counsel, to help Democrat Senator Newman withstand the recall election.

This is another step in the continued decline of the integrity of California’s elections. It is one more example of absolute power corrupting absolutely.

Jim Brulte is chairman of the California Republican Party. 

More shady politics from Sacramento Democrats

State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, left, listens as Senate President Pro Tem Kevin del Leon, D-Los Angeles, right, urges lawmakers to approve a measure to change the rules governing recall elections, Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Democratic lawmakers approved the bill that would let people rescind their signatures from recall petitions and let lawmakers weigh in on potential costs. Newman is facing a recall campaign over his vote to increase the gas tax. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Last week, the ostensibly nonpartisan California Fair Political Practices Commission agreed to remove a long-standing campaign contribution limit so that Democrats could better fight an upcoming recall election against one of their own. And you thought things were bad in Venezuela.

Earlier this year, frustrated taxpayers in Senate District 29 initiated a recall of state Sen. Josh Newman because of his vote to impose over $5 billion annually in new taxes on cars and gasoline. Within months, over 100,000 signatures were submitted in support of ousting Newman.

In a move to bolster Newman’s chances of surviving the impending recall, the Senate Democrats last month requested that the FPPC allow elected officials to contribute more than $4,400 — the legal limit — to Sen. Newman’s recall committee. Since 2003, the FPPC has maintained that the contribution limits that apply to candidate committees during regularly scheduled elections also apply to recall elections. In fact, back in 2008, that rule was applied against a Republican legislator, Jeff Denham, when he was fighting his own recall challenge. The justification for the limit is to prevent legislative leaders from using their power and influence over special-interest contributors to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, which could then be immediately transferred to the targeted legislator.

In response to the Democrats’ request, the FPPC’s own legal counsel reviewed the limit and concluded that the current interpretation is both “well-reasoned and legally sound.” However, in a 3-1 vote, the commission ignored its attorneys’ objection and gave preliminary approval to lift the contribution limit for recall candidates.

To be clear, many question both the efficacy and the constitutionality of political contribution limits. After reasoned debate, it may well be that the California Legislature would vote to lift the cap for future elections. But it is the method and timing of the revised interpretation that stinks.

First, the Democrats are hiding behind the FPPC. If they don’t like the contribution limits, they could simply pass a reform bill, which Gov. Brown would quickly sign. But, rather than be upfront about their political agenda, they asked their cohorts at the FPPC to do their dirty work for them via a regulatory amendment.

Second, and far more troubling, is the timing. If this particular contribution limit can’t be justified as advancing the public interest — and it may not be — why repeal it in a manner so transparently intended to help one particular political party, and one particular candidate? By not delaying the effective date of the regulatory change until some not-too-distant future election cycle, the FPPC loses the moral high ground, as well as the appearance of objectivity.

The upshot of this may not mean much. Sure, with lots more Democratic money to spend in the recall election, voters in the 29th Senate District will see their mailboxes filled to brim with misleading mailers, as well as nonstop radio commercials on every station, funded by special interests. But the anger on the part of working Californians over the massive tax increase, especially in Newman’s conservative district, is palpable — and even an unlimited supply of campaign cash may not be able to stave off voter wrath.

Nonetheless, the FPPC action is unseemly and wrong. Today, when cynicism over the political process is at an all-time high at both the national level and here in California, we should be assuring citizens that our democratic processes are fair and reflective of high standards of integrity. Unfortunately, the FPPC’s sudden rule change will only reinforce distrust on the part of voters.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register.

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