Corporate Funded Senior Group - Used by Insurers in Prop 17 Campaign - Now Laundering Insurance, Industry Money in Candidate Elections

Jun 03, 2010, 16:42 ET from Campaign for Consumer Rights

FPPC Complaint Filed Against "California Senior Advocates League PAC" For Failing to Disclose Its Sole Funders – Big Corporate Political Action Committees

SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Campaign for Consumer Rights (CCR) has filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) about the nearly $320,000 that the California Senior Advocates League PAC appears to have laundered for big insurance companies and other corporations. The corporate groups are using the purported senior group to avoid disclosing the true funding behind the TV ads and attack mailers that have become pervasive in San Diego in the final weeks before the election.

CCR's complaint against the Senior Advocates PAC shows that the front group created a political action committee just last month to funnel money from insurance and other industry funded groups to elect Juan Vargas and defeat Assemblywoman Mary Salas, candidates in the Democratic primary for Senate District 40 in San Diego.

The so-called senior group has also been prominently listed in mass campaign mailings as a supporter of Prop 17, to hide the $15 million Mercury Insurance has spent to promote the initiative to raise car insurance rates. Mercury Insurance is the largest individual corporate donor to one of the two political action committees funding the Senior Advocates PAC. A timeline of the Senior Advocates PAC's contributions and expenditures is below.

"Insurance companies and other big corporations are secretly trying to influence the results of the election in San Diego by funneling money through a group that sounds a lot more trustworthy to voters than big insurance, big tobacco and big oil," said consumer advocate Doug Heller. "Big industry wants to win its agenda in Sacramento, and they're using illegal money laundering tricks to do it."

On May 18th, the day it was created, the Senior Advocates PAC began receiving funds from two corporate PACS and immediately spent the money on independent expenditures against Assemblywoman Mary Salas and in favor of Juan Vargas. The two corporate PACs funneling money through the so-called "Senior Advocates" are "JobsPAC, A Bi-Partisan Coalition of California Employers" and "Put California Back To Work Sponsored By The Civil Justice Association Of California." JobsPAC is the largest overall funder of Put California Back and Mercury Insurance's $50,000 contribution is the largest from an individual corporation to Put California Back.

In the letter to the FPPC, Heller wrote: "Unless the committee is ordered to cease and desist and immediately comply with the Political Reform Act, it will continue to provide false information to the voters for the purpose of hiding the actual sources of funds in connection with expenditures in Senate District 40."

The complaint details how the Senior PAC and others involved in this scheme appear to be violating Government Code sections 84301 and 84302, related to disclosing the true source of funds, and possibly section 84506, related to disclosures in advertisements. The complaint can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/cSuxUU

In addition to laundering money on behalf of the two corporate PACs, Senior Advocates incorrectly describes JobsPAC as a "coalition of employEES" rather than "employERS" in its campaign filings, which only adds to the deception about the source of these funds. On May 28, the Senior Advocates PAC also made a $103,000 independent expenditure against John Laird who is running to fill the Senate seat vacated by Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado.

Timeline of the Contributions Received and Expenditures Made by California Senior Advocates League PAC (CSAL PAC)

CSAL PAC Formed as a committee: 5/18/10

CSAL PAC Received from JobsPAC $5,000 5/18/10

CSAL PAC Received from Put California Back to Work $15,000 5/19/10

CSAL PAC Mailer opposing Mary Salas $9,517.62 5/19/10

CSAL PAC IE to Oppose Mary Salas $28,353.80 5/20/10

CSAL PAC Received from JobsPAC: $94,000 5/21/10

CSAL PAC Made to Working Families for Vargas $100,000 5/24/10

CSAL PAC IE to Oppose Mary Salas $ 1,250.00 5/24/10

CSAL PAC Received from Put California Back to Work $100,000 5/27/10

CSAL PAC Received from JobsPAC $100,000 5/28/10

CSAL PAC Made to Working Families for Vargas $100,000 5/28/10

CSAL PAC IE to Oppose John Laird $103,000 5/28/10

Campaign for Consumer Rights is the campaign affiliate of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog and the sponsor of Stop Prop 17 - http://www.stopprop17.org.

SOURCE Campaign for Consumer Rights