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California

California political watchdog investigates Orange County lawmaker’s spending

Assemblyman William Brough (R-Dana Point)
Assemblyman William Brough (R-Dana Point) is accused of improperly using campaign funds to benefit himself and his family.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California’s campaign watchdog said Thursday that it’s investigating allegations that an Orange County lawmaker used campaign funds to fly his family to a Boston Red Sox baseball game, among other purported examples of improper spending.

The Fair Political Practices Commission released a letter saying it is reviewing allegations that Republican Assemblyman Bill Brough of Dana Point used campaign funds to benefit himself and his family in violation of the state Political Reform Act.

The panel’s chief enforcement officer, Galena West, said commissioners have not determined whether the allegations, filed Thursday, have any merit, something Brough pointed out in a brief statement he released Thursday night to the Associated Press.

“I’ve been advised by the FPPC that they have not made any determination about the validity of the allegations made or about the culpability, if any, of any person” Brough said.

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In June, The Times reported that four women, including an Orange County supervisor, had accused Brough of unwanted touching and other misconduct.

The allegations started with Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who spoke out in opposition to an endorsement for Brough at an Orange County Republican Party meeting and claimed she’d had a negative encounter with the lawmaker.

She said Brough propositioned and “attacked” her at an official event in 2011 when they were both on the Dana Point City Council, an accusation Brough has denied. He has also denied the other allegations.

Thursday’s complaint was filed by conservative activist and blogger Aaron Park.

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He says campaign spending records show Brough “took a two-day pleasure trip” to Boston with his wife and two children in 2017 to take in a Red Sox game before joining other members of the Legislature’s informal “Irish Caucus” in Ireland. He alleges that Brough improperly used his campaign fund to pay more than $2,700 for airfare and a hotel.

Park says campaign records show Brough’s campaign paid more than $13,000 in cellphone bills for himself and his family since 2015, even though he uses his phone for personal as well as campaign business.

He also questioned spending on cigars, a humidor and liquor cabinet and more than $177,000 for food and drinks since 2015.

The $1,310 humidor and cigars were labeled “office expenses” on an official disclosure form, the complaint alleges.

It says he also used campaign funds to pay for a $1,320 “custom-made, luxury liquor cabinet/bar made from a bourbon barrel,” but that there was no legitimate legislative or political purpose to justify the expense.

Some of the alleged “extravagant restaurant tabs” ran to $300 or more per person, far above the maximum $200 per person guideline set by the commission, Park alleges. He says Brough generally labeled his more than 155 bar and restaurant tabs as strategy meetings.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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