State Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) today sent a letter to the Fair Political Practices Commission requesting the FPPC to levy the maximum possible fine against the Bay Area Rapid Transit district for its illegal use of public funds to campaign for Measure RR on the November 2016 ballot.
“The modest administrative penalty that the FPPC is considering would represent less than a slap on the wrist for BART after the district violated state law by using public funds to campaign for its bond measure,” Glazer said.
“In fact, this penalty is barely a tap on the wrist to BART. It would send a message to government officials in every agency in the state that they are free to break the law and use the public’s funds to wage political campaigns to sway public opinion.”
The commission, which meets Thursday in Sacramento, is considering a $7,500 penalty to punish BART for failing to properly disclose its illegal spending, which financed a video featuring Warriors star Draymond Green and text messages sent to thousands of Bay Area residents.
But the commission’s focus on the lack of disclosure ignores the far more serious offense that occurred when BART spent the money in violation of state law banning public agencies from engaging in political campaigns at public expense.
Glazer said that even if the FPPC believes its jurisdiction over illegal spending is limited, the commission could still levy a larger fine.
The $7,500 proposed penalty was based in part on the commission staff’s conclusion that BART’s text message campaign cost little because the list of residents who received the text was already in BART’s files.
But that list was compiled by BART as part of a years-long effort to build a public relations machine to further its interests. The FPPC should base its fine on the cost of that effort – not the cost of writing a mass text message and hitting the “send” button.
Even using its more limited valuation of the public funds BART spent illegally, the FPPC’s own staff acknowledged that the commission could levy a penalty of $33,375. But the commission’s proposed decision calls for a penalty of only a fraction of that amount.
“The people of California depend on the FPPC to be our watchdog over the practices of our politicians,” Glazer said. “But this proposed decision is so toothless that no government official or agency will ever again fear the consequences of spending the public’s money on a political campaign.”