Unsportsmanlike conduct in football costs the team 15 yards--in politics, the San Francisco 49ers have discovered, it costs $60,000.
The 1995 Super Bowl champions were fined that amount for illegally funneling $7,500 in campaign contributions to the unsuccessful 1991 reelection campaign of San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, regulators announced Monday.
The scheme, which the California Fair Political Practices Commission said involved secretly reimbursing contributors, including some employees, to evade the $500 limit in city elections, was run by Keith Simon, the 49ers chief financial officer.
"The 49ers and Keith Simon failed to realize two important things," said commission Chairman Ravi Mehta. "First, they not only deliberately violated the law, they also violated their position of public trust, especially since they are held as role models."
He said there was no indication that Agnos, now western regional administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, had any knowledge of the wrongdoing.
An angry 49ers President Carmen Policy said the public announcement was premature and a low blow.
"We had reached a stipulated agreement with the attorneys of the commission, and they said they had no intention of making anything political out of this," Policy said.
Details were to be worked out at a Nov. 4 meeting, said Policy, criticizing the commission for the early announcement. Mehta said that by law the commission has to announce enforcement decisions 10 days in advance.
Policy said the violations would have been legal in a state campaign, but violated San Francisco's stricter laws.
Some employees were apparently reimbursed for contributions they made to Agnos' campaign, Policy said.
The agreement with the FPPC acknowledged that neither the 49ers owners nor Policy knew about the illegal contributions, both sides agreed.
The team has since tightened up its procedures for campaign contributions, Policy said.
The 1991 contributions were requested by Agnos supporters and were not related to any issues before the mayor, Policy said.
"He's the worst mayor we ever had from a self-interest standpoint," said the 49ers president.