FPPC approves fines in 2012 campaign
By Wes Bowers
— As expected, the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission fined a former and a sitting county supervisor for failure to disclose advertising costs for the 2012 Yes on D campaign.
San Joaquin County Supervisor Carlos Villapudua and former supervisor Steve Bestolarides, along with Central Valley PAC — California, Yes on Measure D, were fined the proposed $26,000 for failing to identify the pair as controlling candidates of the committee by the FPPC at its meeting Thursday morning.
Bestolarides, who was appointed county assessor-recorder-county clerk last August, said in an email statement Thursday afternoon that he had not realized his activities relating to the Yes on Measure D campaign would constitute shared control of the PAC.
He and Villapudua were seeking re-election in 2012 and supported Measure D, an initiative on that year’s general election ballot to extend supervisors’ term limits to three four-year terms from two, by signing the official rebuttal to arguments for it during the campaign.
Bestolarides said he viewed his involvement with the PAC as very limited and maintained he did not help form the committee. He added he didn't know the committee's treasurer — who was responsible for PAC transactions — and had nothing to with any transactions the PAC made during the campaign.
"However, I now understand that I need to be more careful in associating myself with another committee's activities, that limited involvement with a committee can be considered significant under the campaign law and FPPC rules," he said. "Certainly I will consult with legal counsel if I ever have reason to participate in another local measure campaign."
The PAC, Villapudua and Bestolarides could have been fined as much as $79,396, but because the two men cooperated with the investigation and did not have a history of similar violations, the minimum penalty was approved Thursday.
The fact that the PAC spent just $26,465 on Measure D advertisements also contributed to the FPPC’s ruling.
Bestolarides, Villapudua and the PAC will each accept one-third responsibility of the total the $26,000 in penalties.
The ballot initiative committee, Central Valley PAC – California, Yes on D, qualified as a controlled committee sometime around Sept. 20, 2012, when it received $30,000 in contributions from Villapudua, Bestolarides and then-supervisor Ken Vogel.
The PAC was required to file a statement of organization within 10 days of its qualification with the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters. However, the FPPC found that the statement of organization was not filed until Oct. 26, 2012, about 25 days late, and did not contain required information regarding identification of the controlling candidates — later identified as Bestolarides and Villapudua.
The FPPC found that a pre-election statement from the PAC due Sept. 30, 2012, was also filed three weeks late. That statement also did not contain any information regarding the identities of the controlling candidates.
Other filings, including a pre-election statement for the period ending on Oct. 12, 2012, and 24-hour contribution reports, also failed to identify controlling candidates, according to the FPPC.
In the FPPC report, Villapudua and Bestolarides maintain they were not involved with the PAC’s formation, but investigators said the two supervisors significantly influenced its actions and decisions.
According to the FPPC, Bestolarides provided input to Measure D campaign consultants regarding pro-initiative language, fundraising and digital advertising, while Villapudua was involved with decisions related to PAC advertisements, including mailers, signs and a pro-Measure D television commercial.
The PAC, however, failed to put the names of the two supervisors on any advertising materials for the campaign.
Measure D ultimately failed at the polls, garnering just 41.25 percent of the vote.
Bestolarides and Villapudua also filed incomplete documents with regards to their individual campaigns, the FPPC said.
After the 2012 election, Villapudua filed his semi-annual campaign statement for the period ending Dec. 31 of that year and was required to report $15,000 in pro-Measure D contributions. Instead, the FPPC said, he reported them as campaign expenditures without any reference to the initiative.
Bestolarides correctly reported his $20,000 in pro-Measure D contributions, according to the FPPC, but he did not identify the PAC by its full name, which would have included the reference to the initiative. Instead, he identified the committee only as Central Valley PAC/California.
"I have cooperated with the FPPC since I was notified of the complaint," Bestolarides said. "I voluntarily provided all of the documents requested, voluntarily participated in an interview with them, and cooperated throughout the settlement process. As a public servant, I maintain and continue to welcome transparency even if it is to my detriment. I have learned an important lesson and would like to now move forward."