Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2018  
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  Surrogate for Richmond Progressive Alliance Found in Flagrant Violation of Campaign Law
October 24, 2018

On October 3, 2018, the Richmond City Attorney was notified of a campaign law violation of East Bay Working Families, a supposedly independent committee acting as a surrogate for the RPA.

East Bay Working Families violated RMC 2.42.075 (Required disclosure on mass mailings). The purported disclosure is inside the mailer and no on its front page.

RMC 2.42.075(a) provides that the required disclosure be made in a “clear and legible manner on the front page of any mass mailing”. 

RMC 2.42.075(a)(1) requires a mass mailing contain the heading “Major funding by:” followed by information about the 3 largest donors.  In the case of any entity other than an individual or committee, “the full name of the entity and its business interests shall be stated”. RMC 2.42.075(a)(1)(B)

RMC 2.42.075(b) requires the disclosure be in at least 12 point font size in contrasting color for all words in that disclosure.

RMC 2.42.075(c) provides “for the purposes of this section ‘front page’ shall mean the envelope, page or panel where the address appears”.

In the case of this mailer:

  1. There is no disclosure on the front page.
  2. The disclosure does not comply with RMC 2.42.075(a)(1) or (a)(2)

As such, it is in violation of RMC 2.42.075 and subject to civil fine and penalties of $5,000 for each violation or three times the cost of the mailer. 

The Richmond city attorney conducted an investigations and found that “the mailer was not in compliance. “

The City Attorney’s Office “contacted the law firm representing East Bay Working Families and notified them that the mailer did not comply with the City’s municipal code.  The organization’s attorney responded and acknowledged the non-compliance, apologized and indicated that they relied on an older version of the City’s campaign materials ordinance posted on the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) website. She agreed to immediately cease and desist from sending out the mailer and sent us a copy of an updated mailer that is in compliance with the City’s current requirements.  This response was satisfactory to us and we have now closed this matter.”

Unfortunately, the city attorney chose to admonish the violator instead of assessing a fine, essentially sending the message that violations are okay and will not be punished.

The Richmond Progressive Alliance plays fast and loose with the law. The next shoe to drop will be an FPPC investigation of the Richmond Sun.