SACRAMENTO — A government watchdog agency on Thursday rejected a complaint by the Yes on Proposition 11 campaign accusing its opponents of money laundering.
Proponents of the Voters First Act, the ballot measure to hand the power to draw political boundaries to an independent commission, had argued that the California Correctional Peace Officers Association made illegal contributions totaling $577,000 to Senate leader Don Perata's Leadership California committee.
They claimed that the peace officers association sent the money to Perata rather than the No on 11 campaign to curry favor with him as the union sought a salary increase. Perata, a Democrat from Oakland, is running the campaign through the political consulting firm Polka Consulting.
In his rejection letter, Roman Porter, the executive director of the The Fair Political Practices Commission, wrote, "After review of your complaint, the information you provided is insufficient to establish a violation of the (Voters First) Act."
Opponents of the redistricting initiative welcomed the news as a vindication for their own accusation — that the Yes on 11 campaign has been a misleading one.
"This demonstrates the Yes on 11 campaign has no credibility," said Paul Hefner, spokesman for the No on 11 campaign. "They're running a campaign loaded with untruths. There was not a shred of evidence to support the complaint they made.
"They concocted this campaign stunt only to fall flat on their face," he added. "They know they can't win on the merits. If people read this initiative, they will see it for what it is — confusing, complicated and unfair."
Jeannine English, president of the AARP and one of the sponsors of the initiative, called the FPPC's decision disappointing.
"This was another example of politics as usual, where they were putting money in a fund to be used for other purposes," English said. "That's illegal, and we stand by our complaint. It seems that the FPPC could have gathered more evidence.
"I'm not sure what else they needed to know from us," she added. "We'll have our lawyers look at it and proceed from there."
In what has become one of the hard-hitting ballot races of the fall campaign, the Yes on 11 campaign released a Web ad this week, "Hidden Agenda," taking a shot at the peace officers association's contributions to Perata.
"No wonder some prominent politicians and union leaders want to stop Proposition 11," the narrator intoned. "The CCPOA wants a huge raise at a time when the state is in a financial crisis. So what do they do? They give $577,000 to the politicians who oppose this measure to try to influence their position."
The peace officers association has actually given a total of $602,000 to the Leadership California account, and another $250,000 directly to the No on 11 campaign.
The Yes on 11 campaign has also been consistently trying to align the now 80-day budget stalemate with its own campaign message — that politicians who draw their own political boundaries have created an ungovernable state.
"When all is said and done, my cat would try to bury that budget," said Delaine Eastin, a former Democratic assemblywoman representing parts of Alameda and Santa Clara counties, and former state school superintendent for public schools, at a Sacramento news conference. "We've got a lot of important business and the Legislature is unable to move the ball in part because we've elected very, very nice people, but they tend to be on either extreme."
Proposition 11 would create a 14-person independent citizens commission to draw legislative districts.
Reach Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.