State Watchdog Fines Funder of OC Ethics Commission Measure

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How about this for ironic twist in the world of campaign ethics: the state’s political watchdog is fining the campaign committee behind a ballot measure for a county ethics commission because it failed to disclose funding of a robocall call featuring Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

Measure A, which was approved by 69 percent of voters in last June’s primary election, was authored in part by local campaign finance watchdog Shirley Grindle and will establish a five-member commission to enforce campaign contribution limits on county officials. Spitzer was the measure’s main proponent on the county Board of Supervisors.

The recorded call, which was made 200,000 times between May 23 and May 27,  featured Spitzer urging voters to support Measure A. But the recording failed to disclose that it was paid for by Citizens for an Orange County Ethics Commission.

That violates the state’s Political Reform Act, which requires all campaign recordings and literature to include the name of the campaign committee that paid for them. The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Monday announced a $1,500 fine against the committee for the violation. The fine is still subject to approval by commissioners.

Spitzer said he was not involved in the production or distribution of the call and was only asked to read a script for the recording.

“These recordings are routine and the committee is required to format disclosure in post production or in the script provided which it did not,” Spitzer wrote in a text to a reporter Monday. “I was simply the messenger and had no affiliation with the committee.”

Grindle, who is the committee’s treasurer, also said she was not involved in the production of the call and that three volunteers for the committee — who she would not name — produced and sent the recorded call without consulting her.

Grindle said she reported the violation to the FPPC right after the press conference.

“All three of them should have known better than to put this out without the proper disclosure,” Grindle said.

Grindle added that she called the state agency “five or six times” and complained that it took the agency too long to respond.

The robocall became a flashpoint in a long-running public feud between Spitzer and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who called out the failure to include the disclosure during a hastily arranged press conference.

At the press conference, Rackauckas accused Spitzer of “falsely impersonating” an assistant district attorney.

Spitzer, who is widely expected to run for district attorney in 2018, was once Rackauckas’ hand-picked successor. But their relationship soured in August 2010 in a very public way after Spitzer, then an assistant district attorney, made a phone call to the county Public Guardian’s office that Rackauckas saw as overstepping his bounds.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Spitzer as a senior deputy district attorney. 

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo. 

  • verifiedsane

    Here we go…the ruling class elites who don’t like the message, find a way to attack the messenger…Grindle has openly admitted that there were some problems with the Measure A campaign that she was not aware when these alleged violations were taking place, and has taken responsibility…The Question we should be asking: How many of the corrupt public officials throughout OC government and the injustice system have done the same with much more serious cover-ups and crimes? The Answer: NONE!

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    We can all have a good laugh at this, but this showed once again how ridiculous it would be to have the FPPC in charge of enforcing violations of our local Campaign Reform Ordinance. They simply take too long to handle even the simplest of violations – such as this one. Over a period of 7 months I repeatedly contacted them and each time they told me the “Stipulation – which reveals the fine amount” would be in the mail next week. This was the run-around I got from them repeatedly. Makes me wonder if they talk to each other up there.