In an effort to help prevent the misuse of public funds by public agencies and officials, the Fair Political Practices Commission has requested changes to California’s Political Reform Act. The FPPC wants legislation amending the PRA to authorize it to bring administrative and civil actions against public agencies and officials for spending public funds on campaign activity.
Public agencies spending taxpayer dollars on campaign activity is a misuse of public funds. The FPPC prohibits the use of public funds for campaign-related mass mailings. It requires public agencies qualifying as a committee to file campaign statements and reports, and enforces advertising disclosure requirements on public agencies that participate in campaign activities. The California Supreme Court, additionally, has repeatedly found that it is a violation of the California Constitution to use public resources on campaign activity.
While the law gives the FPPC jurisdiction over the disclosure of campaign spending, it does not permit the FPPC to investigate and bring legal action against public agencies and officials for spending public resources on campaigns.
The Attorney General, district attorneys and city attorneys are authorized to bring civil actions enforcing the prohibition on spending public funds on campaign activities. However, after reviewing the various actions alleging misuse of public funds by public agencies and officials, the FPPC has found that, other than a few criminal prosecutions, these actions have only been brought by private individuals and entities. The FPPC could not find any civil actions brought by state or local prosecutors.
The FPPC considers these to be very serious violations and is seeking to have the Act amended in an effort to close the gap between the enforcement by state and local prosecutors, and the FPPC’s enforcement of administrative and civil violations of the laws against the misuse of public funds.