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D.A. Says Propriety of Independent Expenditure Supporting Baker Under LB Contribution Limits Is An LB, Not D.A., Matter

LB City Prosecutor Reeves tells he's ordered copies of the campaign reports but has received no independent complaints and seen no other evidence in the matter

We post excerpts of Prop M, LB's Campaign Reform Act...including civil penalties

(April 13, 2002) -- Without expressing a view on the merits, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has said allegations questioning an independent expenditure supporting Vice Mayor Dan Baker's Mayoral run and its propriety under LB campaign contribution limits are a misdemeanor matter for which jurisdiction properly rests with the local prosecutor.

The D.A.'s office did not express any view on the merits of the matter or recommend prosecution, leaving a decision on that to LB authorities.

LB City Prosecutor Tom Reeves (re-elected Tuesday) told he has ordered copies of campaign reports filed by the group and is looking into the facts. However, he added that as of April 12 he was not in receipt of any formal complaint or other evidence in the matter.

In a letter dated April 10 to LB activist Traci Wilson-Kleekamp (made available to by the addressee), the Assistant Head Deputy of the D.A.'s Public Integrity Division, Susan Chasworth, responded to an email from Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp that questioned the propriety of expenditures by "California Citizens for Neighborhood Empowerment," a group listing a Burbank address and supporting mayoral candidate Dan Baker.

In pertinent part, Ms. Chasworth's letter indicated that because Ms. Kleekamp's allegations under LB's local campaign reform law would [if proven] constitute a misdemeanor, "Jurisdiction therefore rests with the Long Beach City Attorney and not the District Attorney's office. This matter should be presented to the local prosecutor."

[To avoid any ambiguity, separately confirmed with Ms. Chasworth that by this language she meant the matter belonged with the LB City Prosecutor's office.]

LB City Prosecutor Tom Reeves acknowledged to he is aware of accusations made and published in the local media. "I've ordered copies of the reports filed by the group and I am looking into the facts of the matter," said Mr. Reeves. He added that "accusations aren't evidence" and as of April 12 he had yet to receive a complaint in the matter or be presented with evidence from a complaining party.

Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp reacted to Prosecutor Reeves statement by saying, "He'll have my complaint on his desk Monday morning." She added, "Taxpayers expect the Prosecutor's office to get to the truth on an important public matter, not wait for someone to walk in and confess."

A campaign disclosure statement filed by California Citizens for Neighborhood Empowerment indicates it is an independent committee that supports Dan Baker's Mayoral campaign. The largest single contribution listed was $15,000 from the LB Police Officers Association PAC on February 26, 2002.

In 1994, LB voters enacted the city's Campaign Reform Act (Prop M), now on the books as part of LB's Municipal Code. LB voters thereafter rejected a ballot measure that would have weakened the Act.

LB's Campaign Reform Act provides in pertinent part:

"[N]o person shall make to any committee which supports or opposes any candidate and no such committee shall accept from each such person a contribution or contributions totaling more than...[$600]...for the primary election...for Mayor."

The Act further provides:

Any person violating any of the provisions or failing to comply with any of the mandatory requirements of this Act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Any person convicted of such a misdemeanor, unless provision is otherwise made herein, shall be punishable by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment in the City or County jail for a period not exceeding six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

As an alternative to the penalty provided [above], violation of or failure to comply with any provision of or condition lawfully imposed under this Act may be deemed to constitute an infraction as provided in Section 17 of the California Penal Code, and penalties for such infractions shall be as set forth in Subdivision 19e of the Penal Code.

Any person who causes any other person to violate any provision of this Act, or who aids and abets any other person in the violation of any provision of this Act, shall be equally subject to the provisions of this Section.

"California Citizens for Neighborhood Empowerment" lists a Burbank address and the same treasurer as Dan Baker's Mayoral campaign, but this is not illegal and does not necessarily tie Baker or his campaign to what took place.

Independent committees are legally recognized under CA campaign law if they are truly independent (i.e. not controlled by or acting in concert with a candidate's campaign.) In plain language, an independent committee can't legally be in cahoots with a candidate.

A telephone information staffer for CA's Fair Political Practices Commission (to whom we didn't give specifics and thus responded in general terms) told he'd reason that if the treasurer wasn't substantively involved in the campaign and basically did just bookkeeping, that could support a conclusion that the groups were independent. The treasurer for Baker's campaign and for California Citizens for Neighborhood Empowerment handles campaign paperwork for numerous CA campaigns, arguably akin to bookkeeping type services.

The FPPC staffer said he thought any inquiry in the matter ought to focus on whether there were other contacts between the two groups or understandings concerning the contribution.

For his part, Vice Mayor Baker has noted the campaign treasurer was legally precluded from telling him about the LBPOA's independent contribution to ensure the independent group was independent of the candidate. Baker has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

In addition to criminal penalties , Prop M also includes civil penalties, up to three times the amount of any wrongful contribution or expenditure.payable to the Campaign Reform Act Fund.

The civil penalties provision would be handled by the City Attorney, not the City Prosecutor. In court, liability for a civil penalty would require proof by a preponderance of the evidence, not the higher standard of proof required in criminal cases beyond a reasonable doubt.

Any person who violates any provision of this Act shall be liable in a civil action brought by the City Attorney or, in the case of a conflict of interest on the part of the City Attorney, an attorney retained by the City on the City Attorney's recommendation, or by or on behalf of a person residing within the jurisdiction, for an amount not more than three times the amount of the unlawful contribution or expenditure.

If two or more persons are responsible for any violation, they shall be jointly and severally liable.

Any person, before filing a civil action pursuant to this Section, shall first file with the City Attorney a written request for the City Attorney to commence the action. The request shall contain a statement of the grounds for believing the cause of action exists. The City Attorney shall respond within forty days after receipt of the request indicating whether he or she intends to file a civil action. (In the case of a conflict of interest on the part of the City Attorney, independent counsel shall be retained to formulate this response.) If the City Attorney or, when applicable, independent counsel indicates in the affirmative and files a suit within forty days thereafter, no other action may be brought unless the action brought by the City Attorney or independent counsel is dismissed without prejudice.

In determining the amount of liability, the Court may take into account the seriousness of the violation and the degree of culpability of the defendant. If a judgment is entered against the defendant or defendants in an action, the entire amount shall be paid into the Campaign Reform Account of the General Fund of the City.

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