California Common Cause said today that it has filed a complaint with the state's watchdog agency alleging the state GOP violated disclosure laws in connection with a referendum drive to kill the state's newly drawn Senate districts.
The California Republican Party has made numerous contributions, totaling $936,000, to the referendum drive since late September, state records show. The goal is to qualify a ballot measure aimed at overturning Senate maps created by a state citizens commission.
Common Cause contends that the state GOP failed to comply with laws requiring it to disclose within 10 days the source of money used to make contributions of $5,000 or more to the referendum effort -- or to any state ballot measure.
The party ultimately made the public disclosures -- Tuesday it itemized $1.86 million in donations received. But state records suggest the paperwork for roughly $800,000 of that amount was tardy by days or weeks.
"This is a major party that understands disclosure laws, so the way we look at it, they're either purposely doing this or they have really sloppy bookkeeping," said Phillip Ung of Common Cause. "We think it's more the former than the latter."
Mark Standriff, state GOP spokesman, said the party moved quickly to make the required disclosures once it realized its contributions to the referendum drive triggered a 10-day window for reporting.
"It's very common for major political committees to file amendments on very complex reporting regulations on a regular basis," Standriff said. "In fact, what this frivolous complaint by Common Cause brings to light is the fact that, if anything, they should be commending us for being transparent and proactive. ... It's always our intent to be fully compliant."
Common Cause released a copy of its allegations and documentation to the media. Spokeswoman Tara Stock confirmed this afternoon that the Fair Political Practices Commission had received the complaint and would have two weeks to respond to it.
In a related matter, Common Cause said it filed a complaint with the FPPC alleging that the Republican-backed coalition leading the referendum drive -- Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting -- is legally required to identify itself with a name or phrase that discloses donors of $50,000 or more.
Standriff and Dave Gilliard, a political strategist leading FAIR, declined comment today on Common Cause's allegation.
Editor's note, 4:50 p.m.: This post was updated to reflect that the FPPC confirmed receiving the complaint.