The Silicon Valley GOP has been hit with a $7,000 fine from California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).
The FPPC determined that Santa Clara County Republican Party, treasurer Shane Connolly and campaign finance consultant Kelly Lawler broke the state’s Political Reform Act by missing deadlines for contribution reports and making prohibited donations to three candidates during the 2015-16 election cycle.
The violation first came to light in a Franchise Tax Board audit that examined $371,999 in contributions to and $404,082 in expenditures by the party’s committee from Jan. 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2016. According to the March FPPC judgement, the committee failed to meet the deadline for disclosure of $103,202 in contributions to a number of candidates, including San Jose City Council members Dev Davis, Johnny Khamis and Lan Diep. The committee also made three prohibited contributions to state candidates from a “restricted use” bank account totaling $20,697.
For the first violation, Connolly—who chairs the county GOP group—said there were some “coordination issues because of the sheer number of candidates we were working with.” The sum of the second violation amounted to $3,000 and Connolly said he plans to personally reimburse the committee for the fine.
The second violation, he said, stemmed from a difference in definition with the California’s election watchdogs. With the 2016 election approaching, Connolly said that three local GOP-backed candidates used the wrong form to collect the necessary ballot-qualifying signatures. The forms were rejected and the committee appealed in court.
“We won the court case,” he said. “But in the intervening period, we were told by the election officers that these people aren’t candidates. We spent the money as if it were an administrative expense not a campaign expense.”
Turns out, that wasn’t the case.
“Anyone who’s new at this and even if you’re not it’s so complicated that it’s very difficult to navigate sometimes,” Connolly added.
The second violation accrued a fine of $4,000.
Galena West, who is the FPPC’s enforcement chief, said in the decision that the “violation resulted in a lack of transparency for the public.” However, she added, “there is no evidence of an intention to conceal, deceive, or mislead the public.”