In what his campaign calls a “bookkeeping error,” Assemblyman Adam Gray will have to pay up to settle complaints from the state’s campaign finance watchdog.
The Merced Democrat found himself running afoul of the Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC). They say that Gray made four violations of campaign finance law after an audit from another state agency, the Franchise Tax Board. The violations range from failing to file reports on time to accepting a donation exceeding the legal limit. Gray’s penalty will come to $8,500 for all counts. The violations took place in 2013 and 2014.
“He accepts full responsibility. The errors were bookkeeping in nature. They shouldn’t have happened,” Gray’s campaign manager Michael Lynch tells GV Wire. “We have taken steps to prevent it from happening again.”
Lynch says the campaign has a new treasurer and bookkeeper.
In its 12-page complaint, the FPPC laid out the case against Gray:
Count 1: failing to report expenditures within 24 hours
The FPPC says that Gray’s campaign made two expenditures to support 2014’s Prop 41 (a state bond to help with Veterans housing that passed with 65% of the vote) to produce radio ads in Modesto and Merced, but did not properly report the money on time, filing 34 days late.
Count 2 and 3: failing to report contributions in excess of $5,000
The FPPC says Gray’s campaign failed to report a July 2013 $6,500 contribution from the American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees Small Contributor Committee in time. Law requires out-of-election cycle contributions to be reported within 10 days. Gray didn’t file until 21 days later.
The FPPC also claimed that Gray was late in reporting four contributions during the 2014 primary election cycle: a March 2014 $1,000 donation from Proctor & Gamble was three days late; and three contributions on June 3, 2014 ($8,200 from California Real Estate Political Action Committee; $2,000 from Caterpillar Employees PAC and $1,500 from Genentech, Inc.) were reported nine days late. Campaign finance law says those needed to be reported within 24 hours.
Count 4: accepting contribution over the limit
The final count claims Gray’s campaign took too much money from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in the 2014 campaign. The maximum would be $4,100 for each cycle (primary and general), thus $8,200 in total. Gray accepted $5,000 from IBEW in 2013 and another $8,200 in October of 2014 for total of $13,200.
It could have been worse. According to the FPPC, the maximum a campaign can be fined per violation is $5,000. So, by the strictest standards, Gray’s campaign could be facing $20,000 in fines. Instead, in referring to similar cases from the past, the FPPC determined the $8,500 fine as consistent with their past rulings.
Most fell in the middle range. However, the FPPC wrote that the experience of Gray and treasurer Douglas L. White in accepting the IBEW contribution caused for a larger penalty ($3,000) compared to similar cases. The agency does note that the action was not intentional.
Gray also had to return the excess $5,000 to IBEW.
According to the California Secretary of State, Gray raised $1,593,417 in 741 contributions during the 2014 campaign cycle while his challenger, Jack Mobley, ended the campaign with $92,918 raised from 153 contributors.
The FPPC will ratify the decision at its August 17 meeting in Sacramento.
Drew Phelps contributed to this report
photo: Assemblyman Adam Gray