Monday, August 09, 2004
As Vanessa Hua and Christian Berthelsen report in The San Francisco Chronicle:
A San Francisco nonprofit group paid $108,000 from a state grant to two individuals and two companies who then made donations of nearly identical amounts to Kevin Shelley's successful 2002 campaign for California secretary of state.
The nonprofit group received the grant to build a community center that was never built. California law prohibits grants for work not yet completed.
The $108,000 in payments from the nonprofit to the contributing businesses and people were made for services rendered in connection with the same center. At least one of the individuals reports having done no work for the center, calling into question the legitimacy of the payments. California law also prohibits funneling campaign contributions through false donors to hide the true source of the contributions.
The donations occurred in the middle of the hotly-contested 2002 campaign for Secretary of State - Shelley won his primary election over March Fong Eu by less than five points in March 2002 and won the general election over Keith Olberg than less than four points - and accounted for nearly 5% of Shelley's campaign warchest.
Shelley has responded to the these reports:
If this sequence of events is true, very frankly I'm disappointed and more than outraged. I don't know what, if any, inappropriate behavior was engaged in by individual donors to my campaign, but I intend to find out. I expect each and every one of my donors to participate in the political process in an above-board manner. If any contributions to my campaign prove to be inappropriate, we'll return the money immediately.Even if Shelley knew nothing of the questionable nature of these transactions, that they took place undetected shows that the oversight of campaign contributions needs to be beefed up. With California's $21,200 contribution limits, wealthy interests already can and do dominate the state's political process, drowning out the voice of average citizens. It is not too much to ask of campaigns that they be held responsible for determining the source of campaign contributions in the tens of thousands of dollars. If candidates like Shelley want the benefit of the huge infusions of big-money cash, they should also bear this responsibility - simply expecting donors to play by the rules is obviously not going to cut it.