Curry: Nobody is Enforcing Newport Beach Campaign Finance Laws

Last spring, I introduced political reforms designed to ensure the enforceability of our campaign finance laws and to increase transparency about who is behind the candidates running for city council. The Team Newport incumbents refused to consider these reforms, saying they were not needed.

Now we see they are, Lee Lowrey’s campaign reports filed with the city show he received two donations from the Southern California Coalition of Businesses and Taxpayers (SCCBT, ID; 1365006) in the amounts of $250 on June 30, and $1,000 on September 12. The legal limit for contributions from one donor is $1,100. Violations of this provision is a misdemeanor and carries the penalty of either disqualification for candidates or removal from office for those who are elected.   The evidence of the violation is not in dispute, it is on Mr. Lowrey’s own reports he signed under penalty of perjury.

The city attorney takes the position he is not authorized to enforce the city’s own laws regarding campaign contributions. The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), lacks jurisdiction to enforce municipal laws. The District Attorney can enforce this provision, however his principal political advisor, Michael Schroeder, is a donor and endorser of Lowrey. The city council has the authority under its law to appoint a Special Council to fully and fairly ensure the integrity of its own campaign laws. The public must ask: “Who will enforce our laws?”

The SCCBT is a money laundering recipient committee that allows donors to wash their donations and conceal their real identity. The public has a right to know, “Who is the SCCBT, and who gave the committee the money to launder to Lowrey?” Several Newport Beach based entities are listed as donors, they include C33 LLC, Co Investments, Villa San Clemente. Do you have any idea who the real people are behind these contributions? Neither do I. C33 LLC appears to be a developer doing business in the city of Cypress who was directing donations to council candidates in that city. We do know from public reports that in October, 2014, the SCCBT gave $17,000 to the Bob McCaffrey-Dave Ellis controlled Residents for Reform.

One donor to SCCBT we can identify is Steve Baric. Baric is the lobbyist for Southside Towing. In January, the city council overturned the Newport Beach Police Department evaluation of towing companies that ranked Southside last, and awarded them a lucrative towing contract. This was done despite serious questions about the ability of Southside to preserve vehicles that were evidence in criminal investigations.

If Baric is the source of the donations to Lowrey, it’s more problematic since Baric independently gave $900 to Lowrey on September 13.   According to their own December public reports, Baric is also the lawyer for Duffy Duffield, Scott Peotter and Kevin Muldoon.   In press reports, Lowrey says he is “unfamiliar” with his largest donor and Ellis denies knowing the source of $17,000 to Residents for Reform. It is not only illegal to accept excessive donations, it is also a crime in our city to make them. SCCBT should be prosecuted for this violation.

The episode opens the window and allows the public to see how dark, anonymous money is funneled to city council candidates, a process that was used in 2014 by the puppet masters Ellis and McCaffrey to elect Team Newport. The name for this is Political Corruption. Residents must rise up, vote for political integrity, and demand our campaign finance laws be respected and enforced.

Keith Curry is a Newport Beach Councilman.

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  • Jacki Livingston

    I spent six years writing letters and emails to activists like Grille and every public official that I could think of, because I had proof positive of embezzlement, abuse, rapes and deaths of patients in nursing homes in OC. I had evidence of misuse of county computer systems to rip off taxpayers, and that county officials were being bribed to look the other way. In addition, nursing homes were being bought by organized crime figures. People were dying! None of these so called “activists” who cared so passionately could be bothered. NoT, the DA…no one cared. Why? Because the people in this county think they have eternal youth. Inches of writing on this site, about which crooked politico is abusing his position, while an 87 year old is dropped on her head, or a 90 year old woman is repeatedly raped, and patients in Newport eat eat dropping infested food. This county is psycho, and without a soul. But keep up with the important job of reporting the shocking info no one cares about.

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    Would someone explain to me why the City Attorney is not responsible for enforcing the local campaign ordinance? Both Anaheim and Orange have local campaign laws (patterned after the TINCUP County Campaign Reform Ordinance) and the city attorneys of these two cities enforce violations of their campaign ordinances. Why is Newport Beach’s City Attorney bowing out? Is it because their ordinance does not specifically state the City Attorney is charged with enforcement? If so, the City Council should amend their ordinance but if they don’t I recommend they do away with it because it is nothing but a SHAM.

  • concerned citizen

    Southside Towing also violated the no contact rule during the contract process for the towing contract in newport beach by spending 10s of thousands of dollars on the oc fair motorhome derby and putting the cheifs of both newport and costa mesa police departments in them for the show. You can search youtube under oc fair motorhoime derby 2016 for videos showing that the motorhomes were painted like both cities police cars. Were they representing each city? If so and they were to be hurt would the cities work comp pay for the injuries? Is this appropriate considering they are not supposed to be in contact? Are they getting the costa mesa towing contract next? Let’s hope not. If they corrupted Newport lets not let them corrupt costa mesa.

  • Fullerton Rag


    DA should be enforcing local laws, but good luck with that one.