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Monday, December 06, 2004

Pants on Fire: Novato's Firefighterless Firefighter PAC

Where there's smoke, there's fire, goes the old saying. But where there's a Firefighters Political Action Committee (PAC), there's not necessarily any firefighters.

As Con Garretson reports in the Marin Independent Journal, the Novato (CA) City Council will likely pass a campaign finance ordinance tomorrow that focuses on disclosure. Why disclosure?

In the 2001 election, shortly after the September 11 attacks and at a time when firefighters around the country were held in high esteem, a group called the Marin County Firefighters PAC circulated mailers supporting two candidates for the Novato City Council. True to the group's name, the mailings included pictures of firefighters on the job. Both candidates won.

After the election, it was discovered that the Firefighters PAC had no firefighters associated with it. Nor did it have any donors who were firefighters. The PAC, started up by a local law firm, got the bulk of its $30,000 from developers and other interests with business before the city council. The PAC also reported $1,782 in undisclosed contributions, a number which just happens to be 18 times $99. The disclosure threshold was $100.

The new disclosure rules will include: a contributor reporting requirement for donations of $25 or more; candidates can accept no more than $400 in anonymous contributions per year; and top contributors to independent expenditure committees must be identified in mass mailings or broadcast advertisements they fund.

Current Mayor Pat Eklund, one of the two candidates to benefit from the firefighterless firefighter PAC, supports the new disclosure rules, but recently voted against a $400 cap on contributions to candidates for the Council.

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