How is the other investigation into the membership communications of the Ventura County Republican Central Committee coming along? Did the DA formally pass on it? Where in the review process is it? Have all complaints been dropped?
Either way, keep the documents coming into me.
County ethics panel fines GOP group for late reporting of ad
By Kathleen Wilson
Saturday, April 21, 2007
The late reporting of an advertisement criticizing the time former Supervisor Judy Mikels spent at a second home in Tucson has drawn the first fine issued by the county Campaign Finance Ethics Commission in its four years of existence.
In a unanimous vote Friday, the panel assessed a $1,354 fine against an independent committee called Republicans for Ethical Government. The penalty stemmed from late reporting of the ad published during the heated primary campaign last year for the Simi Valley-Moorpark seat on the Board of Supervisors.
The purchase in May 2006 should have been reported to the county elections office along with a copy of the ad within 24 hours, officials said. A required form was not completed until Aug. 22, according to elections officials, who filed a complaint against the committee.
Published in the Simi Valley edition of the Star, the ad cost the same amount as the fine: $1,354. Kenneth Hardy, the Los Angeles attorney who investigated whether the committee had violated Ventura County's campaign finance ordinance, told the commission that was a fair penalty.
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He said the violation was serious because it stemmed from what he called an "attack ad," but that the committee did not fail to report out of malice. The maximum penalty was $5,000, according to Hardy's report.
The committee has agreed that it violated the ordinance, he said, and is not planning an appeal.
Jim Dantona, one of Mikels' opponents, claimed repeatedly during the campaign that the three-term incumbent was spending too much time in Tucson to do a good job.
At a news conference called at her Simi Valley home, Mikels told reporters that was "a bald-faced lie."
Two weeks later, the ad ran. It consisted of a letter from Mikels' former aide supporting Dantona's claims.
"Judy, you sure know how to tell a bald-faced lie," wrote the former aide, Jason Oliver.
Oliver said Friday that he was not a member of the committee but did not dispute the fine.
"If they didn't do what they were supposed to do, the decision was the valid and correct decision," he said.
Barbra Williamson, a supporter of Dantona who placed the ad, considered the fine "nitpicking."
The reporting rules are unclear and were poorly explained by elections officials, the Simi Valley councilwoman said.
"Obviously we are going to pay the fine, but you know what, I think the system stinks," she said. "The people who run it don't have a clue until after the damage is done. We would play by the rules if we knew how to find the rules."
Independent expenditures are supposed to be made without knowledge or control of the candidate. Dantona said Friday he had no knowledge of the ad before it appeared but that he was disappointed with the fine.
"It seems like an awfully heavy fine for a clerical mistake or a misunderstanding," he said. Mikels, who left office in January, could not be reached Friday.
Dantona, a Democrat, said he will be interested to see what the commission does about the late contributions filed by the county Republican Central Committee. Documents showed contributions of almost $30,000 the day before the November election. A subsequent report showed about half of the money was for Peter Foy, a Republican who defeated Dantona in the general election to win the 4th District seat.
Republican officials say the expenses were for mailings to party members and completely legal.
Del Tompkins, an aide to the commission, said that complaint is still being investigated. It was filed in November, long after the complaint about the anti-Mikels ad, she said.
The commission dismissed three other complaints Friday, including one filed by Supervisor Linda Parks' opponent in the June primary. Candidate Joe Gibson complained that a political ally of Parks, Louis Masry, may have exceeded the $600 contribution limit when he placed a newspaper ad supporting her.
But the commission found the ad was an independent expenditure made without the knowledge of Parks or her campaign committee, thus exempting it from the $600 limit.