Núñez Used Nonprofit to Fundraise and Pay for Events
Santa Monica, CA — Consumer advocates called for an investigation into questionable fundraising by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez in a complaint letter filed with the state ethics board. Speaker Núñez used a suspended nonprofit organization to funnel* more than a quarter-million dollars in special interest campaign contributions to pay for events featuring the Speaker.
"The nonprofit was a façade behind which the Assembly Speaker could raise above-the-limit campaign contributions, from donors that had already maxed out their giving to the Speaker, to pay for events intended for his political benefit,” wrote the group. "We urge you to act quickly and set the record straight on what is either a gross violation of California’s campaign contribution limits, or a glaring loophole in the state’s campaign finance regulations."
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) filed the complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) today. Read the complaint here.
Nearly all of the donors were prior contributors to the Speaker, and several had already made the maximum allowed contribution to the Speaker’s campaign committee. Most of the corporations or organizations had (and continue to have) interests in matters before the legislature, and had political reasons to seek the goodwill of the Speaker of the Assembly.
"We knew Núñez was traveling the world in luxury on his contributors’ dime. Now he’s sending their money to compliant nonprofits who spend it on events that help the Speaker politically for a cut of the action in return. It’s Jack Abramoff, California-style,” said Carmen Balber with FTCR.
The contributions paid for events organized by Speaker Núñez’s staff, and included: "Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez’s Inaugural Youth Legislative Conference," "Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez’s Soccerfest 2006," "Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez’s Toy Drive," and "Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez’s Sacramento Student Summit." Promotional materials for at least one event featured the Speaker’s name with no mention of Collective Space.
As explained in a series of advice letters from the FPPC, contributions made at a legislator’s behest are subject to campaign contribution limits, although "charitable" events may be exempted if they meet certain conditions. The Speaker’s events failed several of these tests, including a ban on legislators organizing an event, and a requirement that promotional materials not identify a particular legislator by name. In addition, Collective Space had its nonprofit status suspended in early 2005, before the Speaker began channeling it funds.
Speaker Núñez solicited $271,564 from 20 different corporations and organizations in donations to Collective Space. Six of these donors — Blue Cross of California, California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, The Gas Company-Sempra, and Zenith Insurance — had previously contributed the maximum amount to the Speaker’s 2005-2006 campaign committee, and all had business before the state legislature. All but six of the donors had contributed some amount to the Speaker’s campaign committee.
* In an e-mail sent to The Los Angeles Times, which first reported these activities, Núñez spokesman Steve Maviglio said Collective Space "simply served as a conduit for the funds; the speaker did not raise money for Collective Space."
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