State ethics agency has record number of enforcement actions in 2014

State Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) was fined last year for laundering political contributions through two GOP county committees to his brother's campaign.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The state ethics agency closed a record number of cases with proven violations in 2014 and also set new highs with the number of cases in which public officials agreed to fines, according to an annual report released Monday.

The new records by the state Fair Political Practices Commission came in the same year that federal officials charged two state senators with bribery and a Los Angeles County jury found a third senator guilty of lying about living in his district.

Unlike the criminal cases, the FPPC pursues administrative fines when public officials are found to have violated the Political Reform Act.


In 2014, the agency closed 1,005 cases with proven violations, beating the previous high of 852.

“I’m pleased we handled a high volume of enforcement matters while staying focused on serious violations,” said Commission Chairwoman Jodi Remke. “We believe this is the right balance to promote compliance by officials and restore public confidence in government.”

A record 332 cases were closed with the public official stipulating that a violation occurred and a penalty being assessed, while 673 cases were closed with warning letters going to the officials.

The agency put a new emphasis last year on pursuing serious violations of campaign finance rules, including those involving the laundering of political donations through third parties to hide the true source of contributions.

As a result, the FPPC saw a record number of money laundering prosecutions, double the number from 2013, according to the report.

The laundering cases include one concluded when the commission imposed $40,000 in fines against Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), his brother and two GOP county committees for “serious and deliberate” violations of campaign rules.

Also on Monday, the commission reported that probable cause has been found to believe that Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) made $3,000 in contributions to his Assembly 2010 committee in the names of Piero and Mitsuo Nakasato and that his committee filed “an inaccurate semi-annual campaign statement with the Secretary of State, falsely reporting information regarding the true sources of contributions received.” Hernandez can challenge the finding at a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.