Skip to comments.Watchdog Group Accuses RAT Sen. Florez of Extensive Election Law Violations, Payments to Wife
Posted on 10/15/2005 1:44:26 PM PDT by Libloather
Watchdog Group Accuses Sen. Florez of Extensive Election Law Violations Including Questionable Payments to Wife
Thu Oct 13, 1:43 PM ET
To: State Desk
Contact: Ken Boehm of NLPC, 703-237-1970; Web: http://www.nlpc.org
WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In a formal complaint filed Wednesday with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, a national ethics watchdog group detailed scores of violations of California's Political Reform Act by State Senator Dean Florez of Shafter.
Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), which filed the complaint, said, "Sen. Florez has filed campaign reports riddled with errors and omissions including scores of questionable payments in the thousands of dollars to his wife, mother and a staff member. He simply thumbed his nose at the law which requires a description of expenses more than 50 times. The Political Reform Act strictly prohibits the use of campaign funds to compensate a candidate yet Florez paid his wife over $145,000 -- sometimes for purported "fund raising" or "meetings and appearances" but more than $6,000 in payments to his wife had no description whatsoever."
Boehm continued, "State Senators receive a salary for their service. It looks like Sen. Florez had no reluctance to use campaign funds to boost the Florez household income. The fact that the Florez campaign wrote thousands of dollars in checks to his wife makes a mockery of the law against using campaign funds for compensation. And the fact that more than 50 campaign expenditures failed to describe the nature of the expense makes it appear that Sen. Florez believes he is exempt from the campaign laws that apply to every other California candidate."
The FPPC complaint also charges that Florez improperly used new campaign funds to pay off old debts, improperly used campaign funds for personal purposes and repeatedly failed to use reasonable diligence in the preparation of campaign reports.
NLPC has filed numerous successful complaints against political figures of both parties. NLPC's Federal Election Commission complaint against Rep. Nancy Pelosi's use of two leadership committees to evade campaign contribution limits resulted in a $21,000 fine and $100,000 in refunds. In another prominent case, NLPC exposed a secret unpaid loan to Rep. Jon Fox (R-PA-13) from a real estate developer who had received legislative favors. NLPC's conflict of interest complaint to the Defense Department Inspector General against Boeing exec and former Air Force official Darleen Druyun resulted in a federal prison term for Druyun and cancellation of a tainted multi- billion dollar defense contract.
A copy of the complaint filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission is available under "What's New" on the NLPC homepage at http://www.nlpc.org.
Will corruption be Gray Davis's downfall?
JOHN FUND ON THE TRAIL
Friday, July 5, 2002 12:01 a.m. EDT
In four months, Californians will vote on whether to re-elect Gov. Gray Davis. Although he trails Republican Bill Simon by as much as nine points in private polls taken by both parties, the smart money still expects Mr. Davis to use his enormous $50 million campaign war chest to devastate his opponent come this fall. But the campaign's financial assets could be a political liability. If voters believe the governor neglected state problems to focus on raising that money, they may not care what the Davis attack ads say about Mr. Simon.
The chances of that happening increased on Tuesday with the heavy-handed firing of a Democratic legislator who had been chairing hearings on corruption in state government. Sacramento political reporters are calling it the Tuesday night massacre, a reference to Richard Nixon's Saturday-night firing of Archibald Cox as the Watergate special prosecutor in 1973.
Assemblyman Dean Florez says he was stripped of his chairmanship of the Joint Audit Committee, the Legislature's chief investigative arm, as "payback" for his aggressive hearings into the disastrous no-bid Oracle contract. The state may lose up to $40 million on the Oracle deal, in which it bought software that every staff-level expert said it didn't need. A few days after the state signed the contract, a lobbyist for Oracle met Mr. Davis's top technology aide in a Sacramento bar and handed over a $25,000 campaign contribution. Four Davis administration officials have resigned or been replaced over their role in the scandal.
Mr. Florez held 110 hours of hearings into the Oracle deal and concluded that Davis administration officials were "clearly" influenced by "political and monetary" considerations. "Every agency head involved in this fiasco . . . abdicated their duties to the detriment of taxpayers and to the benefit of corporate interests," the assemblyman summed up as his hearings concluded on June 17. Mr. Florez, a former investment banker with an MBA from Harvard, promised to hold new oversight hearings this summer on massive mismanagement and possible corruption in state programs for veterans.
Instead, Speaker Herb Wesson summoned Mr. Florez late Tuesday and not only stripped him of the committee chairmanship but threw him off the committee entirely. The committee's new chairman is Assemblyman Fred Keely, an ally of Gov. Davis. The governor's spokeswoman said he had nothing to do with Mr. Florez's removal, which she claimed she wasn't even aware of.
Mr. Wesson insists that his decision "had absolutely nothing to do with Oracle." His office privately says it was precipitated when Mr. Florez left the Assembly floor last Monday to attend his son's Little League game and was absent for procedural votes on a car emissions bill. "That's nonplausible," says Mr. Florez. "It's convenient cover. The real reason is that we pushed too hard on Oracle and people must have been worried about what was next." Indeed, a portion of the long-awaited state audit detailing problems in the state's veteran programs was released the day after Mr. Wesson removed Mr. Florez from his oversight role.
Along with papers like the San Jose Mercury News and the Sacramento Bee, Mr. Florez represented a thorn in the side of people who want the larger issues surrounding Oracle to be forgotten by voters this November. An investigation by Bill Lockyer, California's Democratic attorney general, is moving with glacial speed, the local FBI office is in turmoil, and the Bush administration has inexplicably failed to fill the key post of U.S. attorney for the district that includes Sacramento.
I spoke with a couple of Democratic legislative staffers who believe the Davis administration is being unfairly tarred with the Oracle scandal but are nonetheless appalled at how Mr. Florez's removal will look. Said one: "We have a $24 billion deficit, the budget is late, and the speaker needs every vote he can get to pass one. Now Florez is free to grandstand." Indeed, last week Mr. Florez joined his fellow Democrats in supporting a budget that included higher taxes his Central Valley district didn't like. Now, having been sacked as chairman, he freely admits, "The speaker has made me an independent player."
But most Democrats profess to be overjoyed that the nettlesome Mr. Florez has been put down a peg. The Assembly Democratic Caucus gave Mr. Wesson a standing ovation. Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes of Fresno says Mr. Florez had "routinely acted as though the rules don't apply" to him.
Mr. Florez laughs and says that's only true if the rules mean he must act as "a party person" first. "I believe in vigorous oversight of taxpayer dollars, and you can't confine that to odd-numbered years because those are the only years that aren't election years." In any event, he says he is a loyal Democrat whose independent streak was forged during the 1980s, when he was a top staffer to state Sen. Art Torres, now chairman of the California Democratic Party. He joined the legislative staff as a young idealist having just completed a stint as the first Hispanic student body president of UCLA. "Then I lived through the FBI sting known as Scrimpscam. The corruption that uncovered left many voters believing state government was for sale to the highest bidder. What the Oracle probe taught me is that we are drifting dangerously close to those fetid waters once again," he says.
How fetid the waters now are will be an issue in this fall's campaign. Bill Simon's campaign is already running a TV ad in which a grim receptionist tells a teacher and a police officer they can't see Gov. Davis about their concerns because they "haven't given enough money." A man in a suit carrying a briefcase full of cash is then waved right in. Then, when a child presents the receptionist with a piggy bank and asks to see the governor, the receptionist shakes it and tells him, "Keep saving, kid."
Such kidding aside, many independent observers believe something is rotten in the state of California. Tony Quinn, co-editor of the California Target Book, which analyzes political races, says there "is near uniform belief among those in the know that 'pay to play' is the modus operandi" of the Davis administration. "This was not the case with past governors of either party," he wrote in the Sacramento Bee last week. Mr. Quinn says the Davis fund-raising "has overtones of the great scandal that unfolded 30 years ago this summer, Watergate," which was long ignored as a third-rate burglary. "As Nixon never got over his paranoia, Davis never overcame his fixation with raising money . . . [and] has become so focused on the end of achieving political power through political money that any means became proper in getting there."
Indeed, when Gov. Davis was asked years ago by a reporter who his hero in politics was he startled the questioner by quickly answering Alan Cranston, the late senator who was censured by the Senate for his brazen activities on behalf of savings-and-loan villain Charles Keating. Cranston once said his favorite way to spend "leisure time" was to go home, pour himself a stiff drink and make several dozen fund-raising calls.
What the Oracle scandal may bring to light is that the nation's largest state is now indeed being governed by Alan Cranston's political heir. Even more disturbing is that the removal of Dean Florez from his watchdog role may show that the California Democratic Party is being driven by the same desperate desire to cover up the facts that consumed Richard Nixon 30 years ago during the long, hot Watergate summer. Here's hoping someone looks into those state veteran programs that Mr. Florez was interested in.