Equality California accuses opponents of gay history law of hiding campaign donations
LISA LEFF | Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — California’s largest gay rights group on Monday, Oct. 3 accused the backers of a ballot measure seeking to repeal a law requiring gay history to be taught in public schools of deliberately hiding the size and source of campaign contributions.
Two conservative groups behind the StopSB-48 campaign “may have engaged in an unlawful scheme” to violate campaign reporting rules, Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia said in a complaint filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission.
Palencia’s group accuses Capitol Resource Institute and Pacific Justice Institute, the organizations that have taken the lead on undoing the first-of its kind law, of raising and spending money to qualify the repeal referendum for the June 2012 ballot without registering as campaign committees.
Under California’s strict campaign finance laws, political entities that receive more than $1,000 in contributions are required to register with the secretary of state, said Cary Davidson, an election law lawyer on the Equality California board.
“It is critical that backers of any initiative play by the rules, so it is particularly important when that initiative could have such a critical effect on the lives of Californians,” Palencia told reporters during a conference call.
Capitol Resource Institute Executive Director Karen England said her organization’s work on the repeal effort does not require it to register with the secretary of state. She says a new campaign committee, Stop SB-48, has been formed to report fundraising activity, but it has not received any donations of $5,000 or more that would trigger such a mandatory filing.
England also said that while she has been heavily involved in the campaign, it has been as a volunteer. The official Stop SB-48 campaign is leasing office space and equipment from her organization, but for a fee and not as a donation, she said.
Pacific Justice Institute Brad Dacus similarly ridiculed Equality California’s complaint as “a ridiculous but desperate attempt to try to hinder our efforts to get this on the ballot.”
“Our attorneys have been very, very careful to abide by all the requirements,” Dacus said. “We know election law. We’ve been around for 14 years, and we would never risk throwing that away.”