Every campaign, it seems, is turning to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for some late momentum. In the Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 1 race, Dublin Mayor David Haubert has been hitting Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon hard for alleged campaign finance reporting errors for months. Recall, Bacon was fined by the FPPC during the 2016 campaign. The penalty gave birth to Haubert’s fabulous tagline during this election, “We need a lawmaker, not a lawbreaker.”
For the fall election season, Bacon has three FPPC complaints under investigation, including allegations he underreported or failed to report contributions, and covered campaign expenses with personal funds, among the complaints.
Haubert’s campaign has deftly used the prior FPPC fine and the new allegations to subdue Bacon’s description of himself as the only “clean-money” candidate in the race. In an interview with Patch, Bacon acknowledged some of the errors and refuted others, while noting he also serves as his campaign’s treasurer.
Bacon, though, suggests the FPPC complaints is a campaign ploy by Haubert’s campaign. “It’s become a standard campaign tactic to go through your opponent’s campaign finance filings, find any errors you can, and report them hoping you can get the headline that your opponent is being investigated,” Bacon wrote on Facebook last Monday. “Well, one should never throw stones in glass houses,” he added, alleging Haubert’s campaign committed 38 reporting violations during the most recent filing period totaling $98,498.
A FPPC complaint was also made in the Hayward City Council race last month. A Hayward resident filed the complaint against Councilmember Mark Salinas for misuse of public resources. Salinas sent roughly one dozen emails to constituents using his city email address. The text of the emails were clearly campaign related.
The emails reference two of his challengers, housing activists Lacei Amodei and Elisha Crader, and their stances on police accountability in Hayward, and his own take on the issue. Despite the clear misuse of the city’s email system for political campaigning, the FPPC decided against investigating the matter. The reason is unclear why, but may be due to the low number of email recipients included in the complaint.
In Union City, Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci recently filed a complaint against her opponent, Councilmember Jaime Patino for misreporting campaign loans during the most recent filing period. That compliant was filed this week and quickly rejected by the FPPC.
Campaigns using the FPPC to scratch the smooth surface of an opposing campaign is a standard strategy in local politics. But for the most case, the most optimal time to strike was more than a month ago in order to not only publicize the complaint. Then, if the campaign has the good fortune of the FPPC agreeing to investigate the complaint, the allegation will hover over your opponent’s head during the last month of the election.