The Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”) is the state agency responsible for interpreting and enforcing California’s campaign finance rules under the Political Reform Act. The FPPC investigates hundreds of complaints each year alleging violations of the Act.
After initiating an investigation, the FPPC’s staff conducts a thorough review to determine whether any provisions of the Act have been violated. After completing its investigation, staff will contact the respondent regarding resolution of the matter. Most often the respondent cooperates and the matter is resolved through a mutually agreed-upon settlement, providing for a fine for any apparent violations of the Act uncovered in the investigation. When a respondent fails to cooperate or the parties cannot reach a settlement, the FPPC will initiate a formal administrative proceeding and seek an order imposing a fine from an administrative law judge.
The FPPC is authorized to impose a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation of the Act. In determining an appropriate fine amount, the FPPC considers the severity of the violation, any prior violations of the Act, and the presence or absence of an intent to deceive the public. It often assesses fines for less than the maximum amount. The FPPC is also authorized to resolve matters involving first-time, technical violations of the Act’s reporting requirements through a “streamlined enforcement” program. In these cases, which involve so-called “traffic ticket” violations, fines are assessed under set formulas for amounts much less than the maximum. In all cases, the FPPC strives to impose fines consistently and fairly, with similar violations receiving similar fines.
After the parties have agreed to settle the matter, FPPC staff will present a formal settlement agreement (a “Stipulation, Decision, and Order”) to the FPPC's five Commissioners at a publicly noticed meeting. All settlements must be approved by the five Commissioners.
Complaint Against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In response to a complaint filed by a member of the public, the FPPC initiated an investigation into how the Church publicly reported its support of the Yes on 8 campaign. The complaint alleged that the Church had failed to report numerous contributions totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Church has fully cooperated over the last year with the FPPC’s investigation, which is now concluded. The investigation revealed that the Church unintentionally failed to file daily reports detailing approximately $37,000 in non-monetary contributions. This represented the cost of staff time spent by Church employees on activities to help the Yes on 8 committee during the final two weeks of the election.
Given the technical and unintentional nature of the Church’s violation, the FPPC has chosen to process the Church’s matter through its streamlined-enforcement, “traffic ticket” program. The formula for setting a penalty under this program is 15% of the amount not timely reported, which comes out to $5,539 in this case. This fine is similar to fines imposed on other campaign contributors for filing reports after an applicable deadline.
The Church’s matter was considered by the Commissioners at their meeting in Sacramento on Thursday, June 10, 2010. The settlement was approved by the FPPC Commissioners, and the matter is now officially closed.
For questions about this matter, please contact the Church’s legal counsel:
James Sutton, Esq.
The Sutton Law Firm
150 Post Street, Suite 405
San Francisco, California 94108
PH: 415.732.7700 (firm)