Written by Natalia Toliver
When you receive a parking ticket or a traffic violation, if you go without paying these fines they can either continuously go up, you can be charged with a misdemeanor, or have your tax refunds seized. If there are consequences for such, how are California politicians, lobbyists, and campaign donors going without paying certain fines?
California’s Secretary of State office has failed to collect over $2 million in fines over the years without any consequences. Some of these fines are small, less than $100 from a common routine violation such as paperwork being filed a few days late, but more than 45 people/organizations owe fines for more than $10,000. Some of these violations are from over a decade ago. This has raised questions as to whether California had been effectively enforcing its financial campaign laws to create transparency and prevent corruption.
So far, the Secretary of State’s office simply sends three letters to those who owe fines, but other than that, no action takes place to actually collect the money. According to spokesperson Joe Kocurek, in the past staff members of the office would call those who were behind on their fines, but this process had become too time-consuming.
With the list published by the Secretary of State, CalMatters analyzed it and contacted both lawmakers and judges who owed more than $1,000 in fines and campaigns that owed more than $30,000. Many of those who were contacted by CalMatters said one of three things. One, they either had never been notified about the outstanding fines, two, they were aware of it, but were in the process of negotiating to have it reduced or waived, or three, they were confused why the state was combining campaign finance violations when they supposedly resolved the issue with the Fair Political Practices Commission. The FPPC is “responsible for enforcing broader provisions of the campaign finance law, and can levy fines for late disclosure reports.”
Regardless, this has become an outstanding issue that needs to be addressed, and questions need to be answered as to why these judges, lobbyists, and politicians have gotten away without paying fines for so many years.
Photo via @CASOSVote Twitter