Donation was returned to Placer County party
By Michele Clock
, John Marelius
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at midnight
Background: The state Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating unusual campaign transactions involving Assemblyman Joel Anderson, supporters of Anderson, and three Republican county committees. The transactions could have enabled Anderson, R-La Mesa, to collect more than what’s allowed under California campaign finance laws.
What’s changing: The treasurer of one of the county committees, in Placer County, resigned after Anderson returned the donation as the FPPC investigation started.
What’s next: The FPPC will decide whether to fine Anderson or any of the other participants.
The treasurer of the Placer County Republican Party said yesterday she decided to quit her job after the party received a check from Assemblyman Joel Anderson refunding one of a number of campaign fund transactions that are under investigation by the state’s political watchdog agency.
Lynn Kyme said that in the spring she voted against the party making a contribution to Anderson and that she became more suspicious after he returned it recently.
“When the refund came through, I decided I wasn’t sure it was any more legit and I decided it was time to ride off into the sunset,” said Kyme, who resigned her position with the county party last week. “I didn’t want anything more to do with it.”
Anderson, a La Mesa Republican, returned more than $100,000 in campaign contributions to various organizations after the California Fair Political Practices Commission launched an investigation last month into an unusual pattern of fund transfers in response to an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Kyme and one other member of the six-person Placer County party executive committee voted against giving a donation of $31,400 to Anderson in June.
“I voted against it initially because my gut and everything in me told me I shouldn’t do it,” Kyme said yesterday. “When this was presented, I didn’t even know who Joel Anderson was and what he represented and where he was from.”
The other negative vote was from Second Vice President Jerry Simmons, who quit the executive committee shortly after the decision.
“It just didn’t smell right to me because I had never heard of Joel Anderson before,” Simmons said in an interview this week. “I didn’t even know the guy was an assemblyman.”
Kyme and Simmons both said they were unaware at the time that Anderson had recently donated a similar sum to the county party.
“At that time, it wasn’t apparent who the donor was,” Simmons said. “Nobody asked. The debate was, should we or should we not donate money to Joel Anderson. It looked worse once everybody knew who the donor was.”
The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating an unusual pattern of nearly $150,000 in campaign contributions that moved from Anderson’s 2008 re-election committee and business supporters of Anderson in San Diego County to Republican committees in Placer, Fresno and Stanislaus counties. Within weeks, sometimes days, comparable amounts of money were sent to Anderson’s 2010 campaign.
Simmons said the Placer County donation to Anderson was recommended by committee chairman Tom Hudson, who didn’t mention at the time that Anderson had donated a like sum. Kyme said Anderson’s contribution came as a surprise to her.
“I didn’t see the check until the day it was deposited,” Kyme said. “… I think this whole thing is unusual. I met the president at the bank, and he had the check.”
Hudson could not be reached for comment but has said there was no coordination with Anderson or the other central committees about the contributions.
Coordinating such a transaction would be a violation of law, and the people involved could be subject to a fine by the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Anderson maintains a 2010 campaign committee to run again for the Assembly but is widely expected to run for the state Senate.
If Anderson were running for re-election next year, he could simply transfer all of his unspent money from his 2008 campaign. If he runs for the Senate, the surplus money would have to be attributed to individual donors from whom Anderson would not be able to collect additional money if they each gave the legal limit of $3,900.
Anderson returned at least most of the money after the commission began looking into the fund transfers. Stanislaus officials presume Anderson has moved to return a $31,400 donation from the Stanislaus County Republican Party. County Chairman Jim Di Martini
said that he had heard the contribution would be returned, but that the treasurer checks the post office box only sporadically and it might not have been retrieved.
Anderson refused to comment, as he has since early October, when the Union-Tribune first reported on the pattern of contributions.
Simmons of Placer County said he was stunned when he learned the extent of the financial transactions.
“I was sort of taken back by the whole issue,” Simmons said. “I breathed a sign of relief that I voted the way I did before I knew these things.”