Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do is facing a $12,000 fine for steering lobbyist contracts to his own campaign donors – something the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission says violates state pay-to-play restrictions.
Commission investigators said it happened while Do was serving on the CalOptima board, the agency that oversees OC’s medical insurance plan for the elderly, poor and needy.
“Do made, participated in making, and attempted to use his official position to influence governmental contracting decisions involving a participant who contributed to his campaign,” reads a complaint from the commission.
Read the full stipulation here.
Do did not respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon.
Officials took note that while serving on the board of directors for CalOptima, Do tried to push through lobbyist contracts for two established OC lobbyists, James McConnell and Christopher Townsend in 2016 and 2017, according to the Commission’s decision.
After Do realized the contract to Townsend violated the state’s pay to play rules, he removed the recommendation for the contract, according to the proposed stipulation. McConnell ultimately ended up not receiving a contract either.
The Commission’s proposed decision doesn’t allege any wrongdoing by McConnell or Townsend.
Both lobbyists donated money to Do’s campaign before he pushed for the contracts.
Given that both lobbyists are well known and gave sizable contributions to Do’s campaign, FPPC investigators said it was hard to accept that Do didn’t know what he was voting for in McConnell’s contract.
“At the time, Do had reason to know that Mr. Townsend was the source of campaign contributions totaling more than $250 during the past 12 months. Specifically, in December 2016, Mr. Townsend contributed $1,900 to Do. Also, in March 2017, Mr. Townsend made an additional contribution to Do in the amount of $2,000,” reads the Commission’s findings.
The Fair Political Practices Commission found similar donations from McConnell and also said Do should’ve recused himself from those votes.
“With respect to McConnell and Townsend, Do was required to recuse/disqualify himself from the governmental decision-making process, and Do was required to disclose the reason for his disqualification (receipt of contributions in excess of $250 during 12-month look-back period)—but he failed to do so,” reads the commission’s findings.
According to the Commission’s decision, Do argues that CalOptima staff did not inform him of any conflicts of interest on the contracts and once he discovered them, he took corrective action.
In their decision against Do, attorneys working for the Commission argues that the pay to play restrictions were created to ensure officials are not being influenced by the contributions they receive and aren’t allowed to use their power to influence people in contributing to their campaigns.
The Commission also found Do violated regulations on a series of behested payments for a statue project at Mile Square Park throughout 2015 and early 2016 by filing the required reports late.
“Do failed to timely file Form 803 behested payment reports disclosing eight payments—totaling approximately $110,440—which were made at his behest for the Statue Project (by donors of $5,000 or more per calendar year),” reads the findings.
According to the Commission, Do argued he didn’t understand the behested payment reporting requirements could be triggered by staff.
While the findings argue that the violations “appear to be the result of negligence by a public official” and that he does not have a history of similar violations, they also note Do’s history as a former prosecutor as well as his tenure as an elected official.
“It is fair to say that Do is a sophisticated public official who had ample reason to know and understand the requirements of the Act,” the Commission argues.
Do has apparently agreed to the watchdog panel’s findings.
“Respondent agrees to the issuance of the decision and order set forth below. Also, Respondent agrees to the Commission imposing against him an administrative penalty in the amount of $12,000,” reads the Commission’s filing.
The Commission meets July 21, with Do’s case listed for consideration on the agenda.
Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated the two lobbyists received a contract after contributing to Andrew Do’s campaign. While the contributions were received before Do advocated for them, the contracts were ultimately pulled and not rewarded.
Spencer Custodio is the civic editor. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam
And since you’ve made it this far,
You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.