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California’s political watchdog agency is now investigating Santa Ana City Council candidate Jose Solorio’s use of campaign money for rent on the apartment he’s been living in.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) announced in a letter late last week that investigators have decided to open a case focused on whether Solorio violated state law through the arrangement.
Solorio, a former state assemblyman who now works as a lobbyist, moved in July from his family’s home in Ward 1 to an apartment in Ward 3 in order to run for that ward’s open council seat.
Earlier this month, Voice of OC revealed that Solorio had been using campaign funds for the rent and could be breaking the law by doing so. California law makes it illegal to use campaign funds for rent on property that a candidate is personally leasing.
When initially questioned by a reporter, Solorio said he was using part of the one-bedroom apartment as his campaign office, and cited a 24-year-old FPPC advice letter that he claimed gave him the go-ahead to use campaign money for a portion of the rent.
However, the advice letter stated that in order for such an arrangement to be legal, there had to be two separate leases – one for the campaign office and another for the living quarters. Solorio never answered whether there were two leases, and a lease document obtained by Voice of OC from another source shows he is personally leasing the entire apartment.
The day Voice of OC published its story, one of Solorio’s opponents in the Ward 3 race, David De Leon, filed a complaint with the FPPC alleging a violation.
A few days later, Solorio personally reimbursed his campaign $2,880 and said he’ll stop using campaign funds for the rent. Solorio also said his campaign believed the arrangement was legally allowed.
Last week, the FPPC informed De Leon of the investigation.
Solorio didn’t return a call and text message seeking comment for this article.
If the FPPC determines Solorio broke the law, the agency can levy fines of up to $5,000 per violation.
Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.