The California Fair Political Practices Commission has found probable cause to believe that Councilwoman Amy Bublak and former Councilman Kurt Vander Weide were behind the illegal robocalls during the 2008 City Council election, committing 13 violations of the Political Reform Act.
In a recent report, the FPPC highlighted the violations which have been under investigation for over five years. The case, as part of FPPC General Counsel Zackery Morazzini’s monthly report, was listed as a “finding of probable cause” and does “not constitute a finding that a violation has actually occurred.”
Since 2008, Councilwoman Bublak has referred to the case as “rumors,” claiming that her campaign was not behind the robocalls whatsoever.
“For the past five years I have expressed my concern about the wrongful allegations regarding the robot-calls of 2008,’” said Bublak on Thursday. “This matter is still not finished and the findings thus far do not resolve the allegations. I will continue to fight for my name and reputation to be cleared.”
Vander Weide could not be reached for comment.
During October 2008, thousands of Turlock residents began receiving a variety of robocalls. The first, claiming Jackson was a special interest candidate, was falsely said to be paid for by the Orange County-based “Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods.” The FPPC believes it was paid for by Bublak and Vander Weide’s campaigns.
Two other automated phone calls — one referring to Bublak and Vander Weide in a positive manner, and the other painting Jackson negatively — were also found to be falsely purported as being paid for by the fictitious organization, and rather the Amy Bublak for City Council and Friends of Kurt Vander Weide campaigns, according to the FPPC.
The FPPC believes campaign consultant Carl Fogliani aided and abetted in the carrying out of the deception by planning, organizing and directing the making for the calls for both Bublak and Vander Weide’s benefit. According to the FPPC, the deception violates the Political Reform Act, as campaign committees are prohibited from contracting with phone bank vendors who fail to disclose the identification of those who paid for them.
In November 2008, just days before the election, another recorded political message was broadcast featuring a woman who falsely claimed to be Mary Jackson. The impersonating woman promoted a position against Prop 8, the measure banning same-sex marriage in California, saying, “Turlock must support a rich, vibrant community that includes everyone and regardless of whom they choose to love. If you agree, I urge you to vote Mary Jackson for Turlock City Council.” Morazzini’s report states that although the messages were paid for the Bublak and Vander Weide campaigns, they were falsely said to be paid for by the Friends of Mary Jackson committee.
Morazzini’s report also states that in addition to the four counts for failure to comply with identification requirements for political robocalls, Bublak and her husband Milton Richards violated the expenditure reporting requirements for failing to report payment to Fogliani. In August 2008, Bublak’s campaign committee made a payment to Fogliani in the amount of $1,000. Bublak, the campaign, and Richards were required to report the expenditure on a pre-election campaign statement for the period ending Sept. 30, 2008. According to the FPPC, the statement was filed on or about Oct. 6, 2008, however the payment to Fogliani was not disclosed.
Paying Fogliani in excess of $100 per robocall, both Bublak and Vander Weide were required to accurately report the payments on the campaign statements filed for the reporting periods when the robocalls were made. The report filed by the FPPC says that although multiple payments to Fogliani had been reported by Bublak and Vander Weide throughout the election year, the payments were disclosed as being for slate mailers, signs, letterhead, photo shoot services, website and logo design — not as being for robocalls, “serving to conceal the source of the calls from the public.”
In two counts of violating the subvendor reporting requirements, both Vander Weide and Bublak failed to disclose subvendor expenditures made by Fogliani for both campaigns in the amount of $10,983 and $23,518 respectively, between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2008, Morazzini contends.
The report also found that both Bublak and Vander Weide had received contributions from Mark Hall, owner of Monte Vista Crossings, in excess of $5,000. Neither candidate notified Hall that he would need to file a “major donor” campaign statement, resulting in two counts for violating major donor notification requirements. The FPPC revealed that Hall later agreed to pay a $1,600 fine for not filing the major donor campaign statements.
According to FPPC regulations, all subjects of findings of probable cause are presumed to be innocent of any violation of the act unless a violation is proved in a subsequent hearing.
As with all findings of probable cause, the FPPC chief enforcement division will be responsible for the presentation of the case in support of the Accusation at an administrative hearing.