SACRAMENTO -- A Lafayette political campaign attorney and co-founder of a nationwide movement to directly elect the U.S. president is taking aim at Democratic Assembly candidate and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti's campaign finances.

Barry Fadem filed an eight-page complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleging Sbranti reported incorrect contribution dates and failed to disclose the true source of contributions associated with the transfer of more than $30,000 from his Dublin mayoral account to his Assembly account.

Sbranti campaign spokeswoman Michelle Henry called it a "frivolous complaint from a supporter of an opponent. Our campaign finance treasurer and attorney have taken a look at the materials and they aren't seeing anything out of order. An opponent's donor is just trying to get headlines."

Fadem, who specializes in election and campaign law, is backing Orinda Vice Mayor Steve Glazer in what will likely be a fierce contest for Assembly District 16, where incumbent Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, terms out this year.

Democrats hold a 7-percentage-point registration lead in District 16, which includes Orinda, Lafayette, Moraga, Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, Blackhawk, San Ramon, Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore.

Other declared candidates include Democratic Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich and Republican attorney Catharine Baker from the San Ramon Valley. The official candidate filing period is Feb. 10 through March 7.

So far, the contest has focused on labor favorite Sbranti versus business-backed moderate Glazer.


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A political strategist and close adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, Glazer found himself in labor's crosshairs in 2012 after he took a job as the lead Democratic strategist for JobsPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce's political action committee. The committee backed moderate Democrats over more liberal candidates.

Glazer further enraged unions when he publicly endorsed a ban on public transit worker strikes after BART workers walked off the job twice last year during contract disputes.

Labor is backing Sbranti, a high school teacher who leads the California Teachers Association's political action committee. In the past few months, he's collected nearly $33,000 in campaign contributions from labor groups including the CTA.

The complaint, filed Dec. 23 with the state's campaign finance watchdog commission, originated with a big Glazer supporter -- Fadem had contributed $750 to Glazer's campaign as of June 30.

The attorney detailed in an eight-page letter a series of what he alleges are campaign finance improprieties associated with the transfer of $30,852 from Sbranti's 2012 mayoral campaign account to his 2014 Assembly fund, including:

  • Inconsistent contribution dates and donors' names between the reports of the two accounts, which could mask contribution limit violations and the fund sources.

  • A $2,181 discrepancy between what was reported on the mayoral filing as transferred and what was received in the Assembly fund.

  • A transfer from the mayoral account to River City Business Services, a private firm, as an intermediary before Sbranti's Assembly committee was officially qualified.

    "These are not just little typographic errors but instead, they appear to be systematic manipulations of campaign disclosure data," Fadem said.

    As for the characterization of the complaint as frivolous, Fadem responded, "I don't think the Fair Political Practices Commission will see it that way."

    The state commission does not comment on complaints unless they investigate the allegations and find wrongdoing, which can result in warning letters or fines.

    Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773. Follow her at Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.