Complaint accuses Nunez of misusing charity;

Published on

In a filing with the
ethics panel, a foundation says the Assembly speaker used funds given
to a nonprofit for political purposes. He denies the claim.

A complaint filed with state ethics officials Tuesday accused
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez of using a charity to illegally funnel
donations into political activities.

The complaint cites more than $270,000 that Nuñez solicited in
2005 and 2006 from corporations, utilities and other interests with a
stake in legislation to pay for toy giveaways, scholarships, youth
summits and other events that featured Nuñez and were arranged by his

The donations were the subject of a Times investigation in
November, which showed how a small charity — Collective Space — in
Nuñez’s downtown Los Angeles district wrote checks at the direction of
the speaker’s staff for events that benefited his constituents.

In a complaint filed with the Fair Political Practices
Commission, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights accused
Nuñez of dodging state restrictions on campaign donations by asking
donors to give to the nonprofit, then using the money for his political

"The speaker and Collective Space claim it was only a ‘conduit’
for the speaker’s funds," wrote foundation Executive Director Doug
Heller in the complaint. "If this is the case, the contributions were
never intended for the charity and should be considered direct
donations to the speaker and his events."

Heller asked the ethics panel to either punish Nuñez or close "a glaring loophole" in state campaign finance rules.

The Fair Political Practices Commission has 14 days to determine
if it will investigate the complaint or request more time to do so.

Nuñez said the complaint misinterprets the law. He called the
allegations "a huge stretch from where reality is of what law allows a
member of the Legislature to do."

"People can file complaints every day of the week about
whatever they want to file complaints about," said Nuñez, adding that
there was nothing illegal or unethical about his work with Collective

Under a 1997 state law, politicians must file public reports
whenever donors give to non-campaign causes at the politician’s
request. Such donations are not presumed to be gifts or campaign
donations, according to the law, if made "principally for charitable

In its complaint, the foundation argued that the money Nuñez
solicited for Collective Space should be considered campaign
contributions because charity officials had no involvement in deciding
how to spend the donations and the money was spent to highlight Nuñez’s
political profile.

The donations Nuñez solicited for the charity ranged from
$2,500 to $50,000. At least six of the 20 donors — Blue Cross of
California, California Correctional Peace Officers’ Assn., Pacific Gas
& Electric, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Co.
and Zenith Insurance — also gave the maximum $6,600 to Nuñez’s
political committee.

Consumer Watchdog
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