Posted by Yes on F Donors , a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2012 at 4:56 am
Almanac Issue date: November 01, 2000
Atherton election: Slate may have violated campaign finance law
**Jenkins, McKeithen receive payments from their campaign committee.
By Anne H. Kim
Almanac Staff Writer
Atherton slate candidates Bob Jenkins and Kathy McKeithen may have violated the Political Reform Act for dipping into their campaign coffers to pay themselves for working on their campaign. They could face fines of up to $2,000 per violation, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission.
"We will rectify the problem," said Mrs. McKeithen. "We are rushing to figure out how you do that, but one way or another, we will resolve this and do it the way it's supposed to be done."
As of Monday, October 30, Mrs. McKeithen told the Almanac that she and Mr. Jenkins had resolved the matter by repaying their committee and filing an amended disclosure statement.
The Almanac learned of the problem from their latest campaign finance disclosure statement, filed jointly October 26, which states that Mr. Jenkins paid himself $300 for "campaign consultants" and Mrs. McKeithen paid herself $1,517 for campaign expenses she paid out of her pocket.
In the previous disclosure-statement period, ending September 30, Mr. Jenkins said he paid himself $300 for "campaign literature and mailings."
Details for Mr. Jenkins' payments were not included in either statement, but Erv Ericksen, the group's treasurer, said Mr. Jenkins was most recently reimbursed $300 for paying a Menlo College professor who coached both candidates on debate tactics.
According to the Fair Political Practices Commission, which interprets and enforces the Political Reform Act, those payments may not have been legal.
Section 89518 of the act states: "Campaign funds shall not be used to compensate a candidate or elected officer for the performance of political, legislative, or governmental activities." The section goes on to state an exception for "reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses incurred for political, legislative, or governmental purposes," but a representative of the FPPC said that doesn't apply to candidates.
"It's not that simple," said John Sympkowick, in the media relations office. "The exception only applies to incumbents, and those are for expenses not having to do with campaigns."
The act states that "all personal funds of a candidate must first be deposited in the campaign bank account," said Mr. Sympkowick. "The only exceptions are filing fees or ballot statement fees." He said the act does permit candidates to make loans or contributions to themselves.
Both Mrs. McKeithen, a nonpracticing attorney, and Mr. Jenkins, a business consultant and real estate agent, have been highly critical of town government for its handling of public money.
Mr. Jenkins could not be reached for comment.
Mrs. McKeithen said she had "no idea" that reimbursement of candidates for out-of-pocket expenses is not permitted under the act.
"This was through the committee," she said. "I asked if this (reimbursement) was OK to do and they said yes as long as I provided receipts, and that's what I've done."
Mrs. McKeithen said she paid for copies, photographs, postage and envelopes out of her own pocket because it was more convenient.
"I was organizing stuff at Kinko's (copy store) and going back and forth, and it seemed a logical thing for me to pay," she said. "It wasn't anything sinister or devious or that we did something to avoid something."
Mr. Ericksen told the Almanac that early in the campaign, an FPPC representative told him that candidates could be reimbursed for expenses. But his question had to do with Mrs. McKeithen's ballot statement fees for which she can legally be reimbursed under the act.
He said Atherton's city clerk gave him an old copy of an elections information booklet; but despite that, he said, he's tried to run a clean campaign.
"It seems to me that it's a procedural thing and there are people who are maybe too honest, like we were," he said. "This is bureaucracy at its worst, particularly if they (elections office) are sending information that is years old."