Inquiry opens in Anderson finances -- State initiates probe of local assemblyman
Union Tribune (2009-10-08) John Marelius and Michele Clock
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Inquiry opens in Anderson finances
State initiates probe of local assemblyman
By John Marelius
and Michele Clock
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS
2:00 a.m. October 8, 2009
California's political watchdog agency has opened an investigation into an unusual pattern of financial transactions by the campaign of Assemblyman Joel Anderson.
The San Diego Union-Tribune
reported last week that supporters of the La Mesa Republican, who is expected to run for state Senate, donated money to the Fresno County Republican Central Committee, which in turn donated a like amount to Anderson within days. The amounts were well in excess of the $3,900 that candidates for the Legislature can legally accept from individuals.
The newspaper also reported that Anderson sent identical contributions of $32,400 from his 2008 campaign to three Republican county committees in Central and Northern California, which sent similar amounts to his 2010 campaign fund.
The Fair Political Practices Commission yesterday confirmed it had launched an investigation.
Robert Stern, director of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies and co-author of the state Political Reform Act, said the fact that the commission initiated the investigation indicates the matter is being taken seriously. In other cases, the commission responds to complaints, which are often filed by political rivals.
“They're opening this on their own. That's more significant than if they'd received a complaint,” Stern said. “But that doesn't necessarily mean there's a violation.”
An official with the commission yesterday cited the newspaper as the catalyst for the investigation.
“The commission opened a staff-initiated investigation based on news reports in The San Diego Union-Tribune,
” said Roman Porter, executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Anderson, who has consistently declined to discuss the situation, again failed to respond to requests for interviews yesterday, as did his chief of staff, Collin Mc Glashen
Candidates are permitted to give unlimited amounts to political party committees, and political party committees can give unlimited amounts to candidates.
Any coordination in advance would be a violation of the law, and the principals involved could be subject to a fine by the commission.
Tom Hudson, chairman of the Placer County Republican Party, said yesterday there was no coordination involving his organization. The county party reported receiving $32,400 from Anderson's 2008 campaign committee June 12 and donating $31,400 to Anderson's 2010 committee June 26.
“None of us talked to him because our understanding of the rules is it's very important not to have any communication,” Hudson said.
There was a similar pattern of contributions from Anderson to the Fresno County Republican Central Committee and the Stanislaus County Republican Central Committee and back to Anderson.
“It's easy to make any contribution seem a little bit odd by taking it in isolation and out of context,” Hudson said. “There's nothing against the law. I don't see this as unusual.”
Campaign finance statements filed with the Secretary of State's Office show that the Placer County Republican Party collected only $1,500 other than the Anderson contribution during the first six months of 2009. The donation back to Anderson was the only money going out.
An officeholder running for another office can transfer unspent money to a new campaign account but must abide by a process the Fair Political Practices Commission calls “attribution,” in which the surplus money must be ascribed to specific donors. That means the candidate cannot collect additional money from listed donors who gave the maximum in the previous election cycle.
In late June, the Barona Band of Mission Indians in Lakeside sent $10,000 to the Fresno County Republican Central Committee, which a day later donated $9,500 to Anderson.
In May, three members of the Hamann family of East County donated a total of $30,000 to the Fresno County Republican Central Committee.
Days after receiving the Hamann donations, the Fresno party gave a total of $28,500 to Anderson.
Members of the Hamann family, which owns the Hamann Cos. construction and property management business, for years have donated to East County Republican candidates, including Anderson.
The Hamann family's ties to Anderson extend beyond the campaign contributions. County assessor records show the family owns an El Cajon office building that houses both Anderson's district office and campaign headquarters. The building is adjacent to the Hamann Cos. office.
Other than Hudson, none of the principals responded to requests for comment regarding the commission's investigation. Gregg Hamann said last month he couldn't remember why the family gave money to the Fresno Republican committee.
Anyone subject to the commission's investigation should have received a notification letter by today's commission meeting in Sacramento, Porter said.
Porter said the length of the investigation was impossible to predict and depends on case-specific facts.
“Some of the variables are how complex the issue is, whether the commission needs to subpoena records, how many witnesses we need to interview and how willing the individuals named in the investigation are to cooperate with the commission's investigators,” Porter said.
Michele Clock: (619) 542-4577; John Marelius: ;