California lobbyists are facing increased scrutiny by the Fair Political Practices Commission, according to a new report by the state's political watchdog agency.
The FPPC prosecuted 14 lobbyists in 2012 for violations of the California Political Reform Act, up from just one lobbyist prosecuted two years earlier, says the commission's year-end report. The FPPC also sent 54 warning letters to lobbyists who violated the law in 2012, said the FPPC's enforcement chief, Gary Winuk. Warning letters go out when evidence shows the law was broken but circumstances do not warrant imposing a fine.
Lobbyists are required to file quarterly financial statements with the Secretary of State's Office that disclose who their clients are, how much they're being paid, and which bills or agencies they're lobbying. Any failure to file those reports can result in an investigation by the FPPC. Winuk attributed the rise in lobbying prosecutions to better coordination between the FPPC and the Secretary of State's Office.
"Every person who doesn't file with the Secretary of State after a short period of time, it gets sent over here as an enforcement referral, so no one can fall through the cracks," Winuk said.
The FPPC's annual report also touts a rise in prosecutions of money laundering and an increased focus on behested payments. The agency reports that its major successes in 2012 included:
Fining Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson $37,500 for failing to report on time the payments he asked donors to make to various charities.
Compelling a nonprofit group in Arizona to report the source of its funds after it contributed $11 million to a California campaign committee supporting Proposition 32 and opposing Proposition 30.
Investigating campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee, who eventually pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling millions from her clients' campaign accounts and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Fining former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his California Dream Team committee $30,000 for illegally using ballot measure committee funds to pay for advertising related to budget negotiations.
PHOTO CREDIT: Lobbyists crowd the halls outside of the Assembly and Senate committee rooms on the fourth floor of the Capitol in 2003.Sacramento Bee/ John Decker