The Salinas Valley Leadership Group has gotten very good at raising money and writing checks, especially as it relates to funding local campaigns of candidates who align with their pro-business interests. To local contractor Ricky Cabrera during his unsuccessful run for the board of Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, they donated $5,000. To Chris Lopez during his successful 2018 run for Monterey County supervisor, they donated $20,000. For Sheriff Steve Bernal during his 2018 run for re-election, it was a $10,000 donation. Judy Pennycook received $7,500 for her unopposed run for the Monterey County Board of Education, and Supervisor John Phillips received $10,000 cash and $10,000 in non-monetary contributions during his 2018 re-election campaign.
Their donor list, meanwhile, also reads like a who's who of local conservative politics. In $100 increments, attorneys, ag leaders and real estate developers have all thrown into the big political pot.
Now the SVLG will be writing another check, this time to the state's campaign finance watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission, for failing to make timely reports over a $10,000 donation to the Steve Bernal for the Monterey County sheriff campaign; a $10,000 cash donation to the John Phillips for Supervisor campaign and a second $10,000 non-monetary contribution to the Phillips campaign.
In all, the FPPC will fine the SVLG and its treasurer, local CPA Warren Wayland of Hayashi & Wayland, $4,000.
According to the decision and order the FPPC released today, the SVLG received $81,300 and spent $172,190.50 throughout 2018. One of the FPPC requirements: If a committee is making a late contribution that totals $1,000 or more, they have to file a report about it within 24 hours. On March 27, 2018, the committee donated the $10,000 to Bernal, but reported the donation 55 days late.
On May 3, 2018, the committed reported making a $10,000 contribution to the Phillips campaign, and filed the 24-hour report 18 days late. On May 7, 2018, they made the $10,000 non-monetary contribution to Phillips, and reported that one 14 days late as well.
The FPPC launched its investigation in response to an anonymous complaint, it stated in its decision. The maximum penalty it could have imposed was $10,000; they declined to do it in this case, the decision states, is because they didn't find any evidence the SVLG or Wayland intended to conceal, deceive or mislead the public.
"The violations appear to be negligent as Wayland is sophisticated with the [Political Reform] Act and has been treasurer for the committee since its establishment in 2010," the FPPC decision states. "The violations committed here were isolated as the committee and Wayland have not had prior enforcement history."
The proposed decision goes to the commission when it meets March 19 in Sacramento for approval.