Baugh Exempt From Fund-Raising Limit


A state watchdog agency has decided to allow embattled Orange County Assemblyman Scott Baugh to skirt California’s strict new restriction on political contributions while raising cash for his defense against charges of campaign wrongdoing.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission has issued a letter to the Huntington Beach Republican, saying the $250 limit on contributions mandated by Proposition 208 doesn’t apply to Baugh’s legal costs.

Baugh expects his legal bills to balloon to as much as $300,000 as he defends himself against 13 misdemeanor and five felony counts stemming from his successful campaign to replace former Assemblywoman Doris Allen in a November 1995 recall election.


Steven G. Churchwell, FPPC general counsel, said in an April 8 letter to Baugh that the strict contribution limits don’t apply to recalls because such elections are considered akin to ballot measure campaigns, which are not covered under Proposition 208.

The only caveat, Churchwell said, is that the total contributions do not exceed the legal expenses Baugh incurs.

In January, the FPPC suggested to Baugh that the Proposition 208 limits probably did apply, putting the lawmaker in a bind to raise cash for his defense fund. Baugh, an attorney, researched the law, wrote a letter in February arguing his case and got the FPPC to reverse itself.

“It certainly provides some relief,” Baugh said. “I have funding sources lined up and I plan to go back to them and obtain some contributions.”

But backers of Proposition 208 ridiculed the FPPC decision.

“What concerns me is not just this case but the fact that generally the commission is becoming Loophole Inc.,” said Tony Miller, a chief booster of Proposition 208, which was approved by voters in November. “They keep finding loopholes for candidates, lobbyists and anyone else to avoid 208.”

As for the FPPC’s reasoning in Baugh’s case, Miller suggested that candidates running to replace an elected official up for recall should not be exempted. Miller said a candidate is a candidate, regardless of whether the campaign is during a recall or a regular election.


He dispatched a letter to the FPPC on Thursday asking that it consider an appeal of the decision at its May 1 meeting.

Baugh had talked of mounting a court challenge if the FPPC concluded that Proposition 208 stood in the way of fund-raising for his legal defense.

But now, after months of holding back on fund-raising, he feels free to seek the cash to pay his legal bills.

And he didn’t waste any time starting. Baugh already has a $1,000-a-head deep-sea fishing trip planned for Aug. 15 out of Newport Beach on a boat that can accommodate 54.

“I wasn’t about to go out and raise money based on my interpretation of the law,” he said. “I didn’t want to risk another felony or misdemeanor prosecution by a grandstanding district attorney.”

Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi has filed five felony charges of perjury and 13 misdemeanor counts against Baugh. Most of the charges relate to the lawmaker’s alleged misreporting of tens of thousands of dollars of campaign loans and contributions in the days leading up to the recall of Allen, a Cypress Republican.