A little-noticed audit released in January by San Diego's city Ethics Commission sheds some interesting new light on the operation of the "Yes on Propositions A, B & C Committee," which funded 2008's successful campaign to change the city charter, helping advance the so-called strong-mayor agenda backed by Mayor Jerry Sanders.
In December of last year, the ethics commission fined the campaign committee $10,000 for the violations uncovered by the random audit, but http://www.sandiegoreader.com/documents/2012/mar/07/abc-audit/">did not make the document itself public until a month later.
According to the audit, the campaign committee repeatedly failed to properly identify its major donors, as required under city law.
"To ensure that the identity of persons spending significant sums of money to support or oppose particular ballot measures is readily available to the public," the document says, "[the law] requires each primarily formed recipient committee that places an advertisement supporting or opposing a ballot measure to include a disclosure statement identifying any person whose cumulative contributions are $50,000 or more."
Auditors found that the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, which operates a casino and owns the U.S. Grant Hotel downtown, among other local investments, had contributed $45,000 to the campaign on May 13, 2008, and made a non-monetary contribution of $25,000 on May 22, but the committee failed to mention the tribe's support in its advertisements.
"Specifically, on May 31,2011, the Committee disseminated recorded telephone messages to 32,683 individuals and households for the purpose of supporting Propositions A, B, and C, but did not include in the telephone message the identity of Sycuan as contributor of $50,000 or more."
The campaign filed 16 campaign disclosure statements that also failed to adequately disclose Sycuan's contributions.
In addition, the audit says, Sycuan and two other donors made in-kind contributions to the campaign by buying space in a political slate mailer produced by the Lincoln Club, run by local Republicans, but the donations were not adequately reported.
"On May 22, 2008, the Committee received a nonmonetary contribution from [Sycuan] in the form of a $25,000 payment to the Lincoln Club of San Diego Voter Guide for the inclusion of advertising supporting Propositions A, B, and C in a Lincoln Club slate mailer."
"The Committee also received nonmonetary contributions from the San Diego Restaurant & Beverage Political Action Committee and the San Diego Lodging Industry Association PAC in the form of $20,000 payments to the Lincoln Club of San Diego Voter Guide for the inclusion of advertising supporting Propositions A, B, and C in the Lincoln Club slate mailer.
"These nonmonetary contributions were received on May 19, 2008. The Committee filed a Late Contribution Report on May 22, 2008, and inaccurately reported that these nonmonetary contributions were received on May 21, 2008."
Bill Baber, treasurer of the "Yes on Propositions A, B & C" committee,is director of government affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors and a former aide to ex-Mayor Dick Murphy.