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California's campaign finance watchdog continued its pursuit of independent expenditure committees illegally coordinating their contributions with candidates they support for state office, settling with an assemblyman for $21,092 for an over-the-limit donation.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, agreed to the settlement with the Fair Political Practices Commission, which meets to consider the matter Nov. 14.

In April, Joaquin Ross and Voters for a New California, an independent committee he helped operate, settled for $6,500 after spending $28,892 on three mailings supporting Alejo in the June 2010 primary for the open seat running from Monterey to Santa Clara counties.

Voters for a New California was not allowed to donate more than $3,900 to Alejo's primary campaign - unless it spent independently on his behalf without coordinating with the candidate's campaign. The FPPC investigation found Ross violated state election law by serving as Alejo's campaign manager and as the chief officer of the independent expenditure.

Alejo's settlement is the amount in excess of $3,900.

Such coordination has long been suspected in legislative races but has been difficult to prove. The Voters for a New California probe is believed to be the first time the FPPC has been able to levy a fine for a violation. No other charges are expected in the case.

In April, Alejo told The Bee he was not aware of the case or of details into the committee's spending. "I trust the FPPC's investigation was thorough and their judgment will be just," he said at the time."

Alejo is coming off a banner year in the Legislature after Gov. Jerry Brown signed his high-profile measures to provide drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants and eventually raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour from $8.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, during session in the Assembly chambers March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.



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