Campaign Spending Reports Re-Examined

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, October 15, 2007

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez defended himself to reporters. It was after a week of being battered in the press over questions about lavish spending highlighted in a newspaper article.  The expenses listed beg the question—are donors are getting favors for footing the bill for fancy trips, meals and gifts? Nunez says the trips were for public benefit and campaign funds were used instead of taxpayer dollars.  He says he’ll give more detailed explanations on some of them.

“But what I will not do is I will not provide people with the fullest explanation of every single expense, because it’s not required by law.”

Nunez acknowledged that the rules on that may need to change—to allow for greater disclosure.  The head of Fair Political Practices Commission, that oversees such campaign filings, agrees.
Former State Senator and F-P-P-C Chairman Ross Johnson did not want to comment specifically on Nunez’s situation. That’s because the F-P-P-C has received a complaint about the Speaker’s spending, and Johnson could be involved in the decision in the case.  Johnson says candidates—or their attorneys-- can add more details about what they spend money on but seldom do. 

 “One of the things that we’ll be looking at in terms of regulation is to require that kind of specificity that you can give us an explanation here!  You don’t need to write War and Peace!  But give us a little better explanation about what the expenditure was.”

Johnson is hoping the changes won’t require legislation.
Bob Stern is a principal co-author of the Political Reform Act that requires such reporting.  He says spending disclosures have never been as comprehensive as those required of campaign donors.

 “And I think expenditure disclosure needs to be re-examined and amplified because // I think a lot of expenditures are being made that we really don’t know who they’re being made to and who’s benefiting from them.”

Stern calls the Commission’s effort laudable-- but one that could result in more complications for those filling out those forms.    Johnson says any changes would happen after the New Year.