FPPC, Bla, Bla, Bla

by Lou Binninger

If you are looking for a well-run California agency they are harder to find than Charles Darwin’s missing link. You need to pack lunch, dinner and your meds to get through the Department of Motor Vehicles wait. DMV is so incompetent that it registered thousands of people ineligible to vote. Although the DMV director quit don’t expect improvement from Deep State workers.

How about the Department of Water Resources (DWR)? Do you realize contractors are still working on the Oroville Dam? If it wasn’t for Butte County Sheriff Honea taking command, downstream residents would have been clueless about evacuating after the spillway breach occurred on February 7, 2017. The DWR acted like “Keystone Cops” during the crisis after decades of negligence, incompetence and “Band-Aid-Style” or “Blind-Eye” maintenance.

Costs to repair the Oroville Dam spillway are now estimated at $1.1 billion — a $455-million increase from initial estimates says the DWR.

The spiking costs are blamed on design changes that have been made over the last 18 months and damage to the facility that was far more extensive than initially presumed. The neglected dam was doomed.

How about the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC)? This is a sibling of the corrupt California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that protects utility monopolies. The FPPC is supposed to enforce political campaign laws.

Galena West has been director of the Enforcement Division since June 2015. The FPPC website states that “Under West’s leadership, the Enforcement Division set a record year in 2015, with 333 cases resulting in .......over $700,000 in fines. And for the first time in its history, West’s team successfully prosecuted a case of first impression concerning contributions made by a foreign source against a local initiative, which resulted in one of the most significant fines in recent years. This case was successfully prosecuted by the FPPC after federal regulators were unable to act. This not only resulted in a $61,500 fine, but more importantly sent a strong message that under West’s leadership the Enforcement Division will not shy away from difficult cases and is prepared to aggressively prosecute such activity.”

The FPPC collected $700,000 for 333 violations in 2015, a record. What? The FPPC is a total waste of time and money. That is an average of $2,100 fine per violation. In 2016, the FPPC had 311 enforcement orders imposing nearly $900,000 in fines or just $2,893 each. For 2017, there were 340 settlements and $1.1 million in fines or $3,235 each. In 2018, there were 235 settlements of $499,606 or $2,125 each.

That is chump change and no deterrent to wrong doing. Did anyone go to jail? It actually pays to break campaign laws to accomplish political objectives with a wink and a small tip for the FPPC.

The costs to fund the FPPC amount to white collar welfare. In 2017‑18, FPPC’s budget was $12.4 million ($11.7 million from the General Fund and $741,000 from reimbursements) and included 82.5 employee positions. FPPC got a $567,000 budget increase in 2018-19.

If you file a complaint, though the website does not indicate this, the complainant has to investigate his own accusation and submit evidence to the FPPC. What does FPPC do? Peruse the evidence submitted and do little or nothing. The FPPC claims Galena West is an aggressive legal bulldog not avoiding the difficult cases. No, she’s more like a “companion” that licks the perpetrators.

Government Code Section 8314 reads, “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.”

The law reflects the principle that it is unfair and undemocratic for officials to use taxpayers’ money for self-serving political campaigns. However, California officials are doing exactly that with little fear of being pursued by prosecutors or the FPPC.

With Measure K (increasing sales tax), Yuba County supervisors plundered the citizenry by spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to groom voters via a marketing campaign to tax themselves. Then supervisors claim the abuse was consensual. And, the now retired district attorney (legal watchdog) campaigned for the tax.

It all makes sense now. The FPPC workers are squirt gun-packing cops. Yuba taxpayers were intentionally hustled from the start by their county government and marketing firms knowing the FPPC is impotent.

Build another bicycle trail with the FPPC budget.