Will Correct Pac Reports
December 18, 1997
WEST COUNTY TIMES
Thursday, December 18,
RICHMOND A firefighters union involved in West County politics may have violated state campaign laws by incorrectly reporting the source of nearly $15,000 in political contributions.
International Association of Firefighters Local 188, which represents Richmond firefighters,, reported Oct. 23 that 95 retired firefighters contributed $14,955 to the political action committee's fall election campaign.
However, the union's political consultant said Wednesday the former city employees never donated the money. At least some of the retirees who live as far away as Georgia did not know their names were being used to justify political expenditures.
The Fair Political Practices Commission, the state agency which enforces campaign rules, has told the union to comply with campaign finance laws. A spokesman wouldn't confirm whether the agency is investigating the union's campaign activities.
Union political consultant Darrell Reese said the misreporting was done only because the union received incorrect advice from the FPPC. He said the union was not trying to hide the source of the contributions.
Reese said the situation will be corrected soon, when the union files amended campaign finance statements that show the true source of the $14,955. He said the money came from admission into a charitable circus held at the city auditorium in May. Reese said the circus raises funds for the union's PAC every year.
FPPC spokesman Gary Huckaby said Wednesday his agency has asked the union to "get into compliance" with laws that require all contributions of more than $99 to be listed according to the true source of the money. As a matter of policy, he declined to say whether the agency is investigating the union.
City Councilman Tom Butt, a frequent critic of the firefighters union, said Wednesday errors should not be brushed aside as merely technical.
"If this was a first-time candidate, who was naive, didn't know what he was doing, that's one thing. But I don't think that is the case here," he said.
Butt worked hard for passage of city tax Measure H, which the union successfully campaigned against. He and the union have battled in previous elections.
Some of the retired firefighters criticized their union Wednesday.
"I don't particularly care to have my name used (as a contributor), unless it was a mistake. Nobody has ever contacted me. I know nothing about what is going on over there (in Richmond) politically," said Timothy Lokkesmoe of Walnut Creek.
Reese explains the misreporting this way:
*The union was trying to find a way to stay within the strictures of a new state law that limits spending by PACs such as Local 188 to $250 per person. The campaign-finance law, Proposition 208, was approved by voters in 1996.
*After consulting with the FPPC, the union attributed the money it spent to equal contributions of $157.42 from each of its 187 members. The 92 active firefighters contribute out of their paychecks. But the 95 retired union members contributed nothing.
*Reese said an FPPC worker told him the arrangement was legal because the circus benefits retired and active firefighters.
*The union is trying to "correct a perceived wrong" by preparing amended campaign statements. They will list people attending the charity circus as having contributed between $15,000 to $17,000 to the PAC through admission tickets.
Reese said people attending the circus were not told their money would go to politics. The amended statements could be filed as early as today, Reese said.