Yolo DA Files Criminal Complaint against Grijalva for Alleged Campaign Violations

Maria Grijalva pumps her fist during a 2016 protest

Last month, the Vanguard reported that the Yolo County DA had subpoenaed campaign records of Maria Grijalva, a major donor to the Dean Johansson campaign.  On Tuesday, the DA sent out a press release announcing it was filing a criminal complaint alleging violations of state and local laws against Ms. Grijalva, 59, of West Sacramento.

According to the release, the complaint “alleges campaign finance violations related to contributions and expenditures she made in connection with the mayoral race in the City of West Sacramento, which will appear on the November 6th ballot.”

Ms. Grijalva is a current candidate for the Yolo County Board of Education, Trustee Area 1, and had previously run for the West Sacramento City Council in 2016.

Why the Yolo County District attorney is taking an interest in enforcing campaign violations and whether this constitutes a conflict of interest is not addressed in the press release.

In the release, the DA “announced that it has been actively involved in monitoring local elections and campaign-related activities as part of its statutory enforcement obligations under the California Political Reform Act and related local ordinances.

“The laws, which were designed to ensure public trust in the electoral process, improve transparency in campaign related activities and limit certain types of contributions and expenditures, apply to state and local officials, candidates and elections, in varying degrees.”

The DA says it has collaborated with elections officials from local cities and Yolo County to gather facts and investigate allegations of violations of the law including: residency claims, campaign finance violations and improper conflicts of interest by elected officials and candidates for public office.

Chief Deputy DA Jonathan Raven explained in the release, “Our primary goal in this complex area is compliance with the laws.  Experience has shown that many of the alleged violations, especially those committed by local candidates for municipal offices, are based on inexperience or inadvertence.  For many, a warning and immediate correction usually suffices. However, significant or ongoing violations of the California Political Reform Act or local ordinances can pose real threats to the integrity of elections, and are taken seriously and prosecuted.”

According to the release, the DA’s office is alleging that, in October 2018, Ms. Grijalva, as shown on her filings with the State Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), “contributed funds from her own candidate-controlled school board account to produce a mail piece, with a reported value of over six thousand dollars, supporting Joe DeAnda, a candidate for mayor in the City of West Sacramento.”

There is an ordinance in the City of West Sacramento that prohibits individual contributions of more than $250, which are increased to $500 in certain situations, to any candidate for local office.

The DA’s office alleges, “In addition to the violation of the West Sacramento City Ordinance, the complaint also alleges that state law was violated by the same conduct and for another expenditure on an earlier date. “

A conviction of this law could result in fines, jail time and a prohibition of being a candidate for public office for up to four years.

There was no evidence suggesting that mayoral candidate Joe DeAnda had any involvement with Grijalva, nor that his campaign violated any law.

Maria Grijalva, however, claims that she followed the proper process to do an independent expenditure on behalf of Mr. DeAnda.

“When I registered as a county candidate for Education Trustee, I hired an campaign law attorney to guide me in purchasing a mail piece, this is called an independent expenditure,” she said in a statement.

Ms. Grijalva claims, “This independent expenditure is allowed by federal law # 558 U.S. 310, nicknamed Citizens United. A city’s contribution limits do not apply to the federal law on independent expenditures.”

Maria Grijalva also questioned why the district attorney’s office rather than the FPPC was handling this complaint, and why it was being treated as a criminal issue rather than a simple violation of election law.

She explained, “A district attorney is a criminal attorney, not a campaign law attorney. The professionals at the FPPC are very capable of enforcement. So why criminal prosecution?”

Ms. Grijalva added, “Normally, irregularities with campaign finance are handled and processed by the state agency FPPC, the Fair Political Practices Commission. A complaint can take up to a year or more to process. If a filing error is found, a penalty fine is issued.  The matter ends. Life continues. It is not a criminal matter.”

The question she asked is why the DA is taking this matter up at all.  As the Vanguard reported last spring, Ms. Grijalva independently raised over $25,000 in the election, attempting to defeat incumbent District Attorney Jeff Reisig.

“Is it because I spent $40 thousand dollars trying to save Latino youth from the infamous Yolo School to Prison Pipeline? Was it because I was trying to reduce our Direct File rates (charging minors as adults)?” she asked.

She stated, “Yolo’s district attorney history of prosecuting political campaigns started against his challenger during the June Primaries. Now only 90 days after a contributor spent money to replace him, and at the peak of the contributor’s own campaign…the DA is attacking his political opponent.”

The Vanguard has raised questions as to whether there is a conflict of interest here.

Ms. Grijalva noted, “The DA’s threat of  ‘..fines, jail time and a prohibition of being a candidate for public office for up to four years’ is a direct coercion and is an attempt to impact the November 6 election by attempting to paint me in a delinquent manner. This is a violation of California Campaign Reform laws which prohibit coercion, and under laws which require a DA to recuse themselves from conflict of interest matters. This is an egregious matter.”

She added, “Campaign season is not hunting season.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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48 thoughts on “Yolo DA Files Criminal Complaint against Grijalva for Alleged Campaign Violations”

  1. Keith O

    Why the Yolo County District attorney is taking an interest in enforcing campaign violations

    Then you wrote:

    In the release, the DA “announced that it has been actively involved in monitoring local elections and campaign-related activities as part of its statutory enforcement obligations under the California Political Reform Act and related local ordinances.

    Sounds like you answered your own question.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      That’s not really an answer. I don’t think you’ll find a single DA’s office in the state that criminally prosecutes a violation of independent expenditure or campaign finance laws of this sort.

  2. Tia Will

    Well then, I’m glad we have a DA who’s dilligent and on top of things.”

    why the District Attorney’s office rather than the FPPC was handling this complaint, and why it was being treated as a criminal rather than a simple violation of election law.”

    I do not pretend to know the usual and applicable process here. If these kinds of cases are in fact typically handled by the FPPC, I think there is a reasonable question of conflict of interest and intimidation. If they are typically handled by DA’s, then not so much so. However, I would note that we are in a time of partisan handling of similar complaints going after opponents vigorously while letting those on our own side slide. Well, at least one side is doing that as witnessed by the different handling of Cosby/Weinstein/Trump, Franken/Moore/Kavanaugh.

  3. Ken A

    I’m wondering if Tia thinks that the government should “handle” the uncorroborated accusation from woman that someone touched her without her permission 36 years ago the same way they “handle” accusations from multiple  women supported by others that a guy is drugging them and raping them…

     

     

    1. Tia Will

      I absolutely think that all allegations of sexual assault/abuse should be thoroughly investigated regardless of when they occurred. Thorough investigation does not mean that you choose not to interview any of at least 40 people who attempted to provide evidence. Thorough is not rape kits sitting untested. Thorough is not declining to pursue a case because of “lack of corroboration” when you clearly have not sought corroboration.

      But Don, please feel free to pull comments if you like since off topic.

      1. Jeff M

        It is not a legal bright line conflict of interest when new evidence is uncovered from investigating a suspected crime where there is enough preliminary evidence to justify the investigation.  But it would be a legal bright line conflict of interest to go on a witch hunt to try and dig up dirt… like the Democrats and Meuller team are doing to Trump…. when there was zero preliminary evidence and only a fake Dossier that was paid for by the same people promoting the witch hunt.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Actually it is because the DA was a participant in the election – a direct one – he can’t then investigate his opponents. What you’re describing nationally is far removed from this situation.

        2. Jeff M

          he can’t then investigate his opponents. What you’re describing nationally is far removed from this situation.

          LOL.  Evidence is that the Obama administration and loser Hillary Clinton not only investigated their opponent, but actively worked to undermine both his campaign and his Presidency after elected.

          He is not investigating his opponent. She did not run against him.  She is a resident of the county where the DA works to fight crime.  She is a suspected criminal.

        3. Howard P

          Jeff… now you are in “word play”.  Whatever.

          And using the opportunity to take a swipe way off topic.  And, the ironic thing, is that if your swipes are true, that definitely puts the DA in the same group!  Either they are all “right”, or all “in the wrong”, if they are in the same group.  Whatever.

        4. David Greenwald

          “He is not investigating his opponent. She did not run against him.  She is a resident of the county where the DA works to fight crime.  She is a suspected criminal.”

          But it would involve his election which would make him a direct party and thus presents a clear conflict.

        5. Tia Will

          Zero preliminary evidence? Really? I take it you did not hear candidate Trump on national TV asking the Russians to release the emails of HRC, which constituted his asking for release of stolen materials to aide his campaign. But, sure, no evidence at all.

        6. Jeff M

          But it would involve his election which would make him a direct party and thus presents a clear conflict.

          So, based on this “logic” anyone that supported his opponent would need to be off limits for the DA to investigate and prosecute?  LOL.  That would be interesting.  It would be good for criminals to show their support for the losing DA in an election year so that “David’s Rule” would prevent the DA from being able to investigate them and prosecute them.  Is this kinda’ like Harvey Weinstein donating to the Democrat Party and women’s causes so that he would not be investigate and prosecuted for sex crimes against women?

        7. David Greenwald

          There are two levels to this.  The first level is an investigation as you suggested into whether Soros money was funneled to Johansson.  That would make Reisig the direct subject of the investigation and he would be precluded by law from investigating.

          The second level is whether he can investigate Maria for activities that do not directly impact him.  The answer is that he can.  However, the question is whether he should given her role.  She’s not just anyone who supported his opponent, she was the largest donor to his campaign – by far.

          The first level is a conflict of interest and he cannot do it (which is what we’re discussing per your 9:18 comment), the second one is only an appearance of a conflict and he has more discretion.

        8. Jeff M

          That would make Reisig the direct subject of the investigation and he would be precluded by law from investigating.

          What law?  Also, this could be much bigger than just Reisig.

          the second one is only an appearance of a conflict and he has more discretion.

          I am happy we got that cleared up.  And appearance of conflict is much too nebulous and it is a double-standard.  You could just as easily say that ignoring the evidence of her law breaking is a potential conflict of interest for the DA not wanting it to appear as political retribution.  Reisig is a “by the book” DA.   He does not sweat the politics of the thing.  If she is a qualified suspect for breaking the law, then he is duty-bound to investigate and prosecute.

        9. Jeff M

          So as I understand this code, it would be when the case goes before a judge where the defendant can file a motion to disqualify the DA or AG on grounds of a conflict of interest.

          The motion may not be granted unless the evidence shows that a conflict of interest exists that would render it unlikely that the defendant would receive a fair trial.  An order recusing the district attorney from any proceeding may be reviewed by extraordinary writ or may be appealed by the district attorney or the Attorney General.

          Somehow I doubt any local judge is going to agree that the defendant would not get a fair trial.  But you are criticizing the investigation and the decision to prosecute.  I don’t see anything in this code that backs your criticism.  Back to my point, the conflict of interest can be directed the other way if he does not investigate or prosecute.  What if his lefty opponent won and refused to investigate or prosecute in light of the same evidence… would you be on that VG story as a example of a DA making decisions supporting his interests?   Somehow I doubt it.

        10. David Greenwald

          You doubt that the judge is going to recuse the DA in a case where he is himself a party?  You really don’t know what you are talking about if that’s what you’re claiming.  That’s the easy case in the world to get a judge to rule on.

    1. Jim Hoch

      More likely he will seek to prove the source of the funds is more pedestrian, though criminal, in nature. It would surprise me if the campaign violation alone was the end of the story.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        They have yet to subpoena anything that would show the source of the funds, which she says is the sale of a home. Moreover, if that’s the real issue, why charge this case now rather than gather that evidence.

  4. Tia Will

    You know, Soros is getting pretty old. I am wondering who the right is going to use as their next “Big bad wolf” when he is gone. Any suggestions?

     

      1. Jeff M

        Soros: “The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.”

        Any billionaire that thinks like this and spends billions to promote his ideas is a big bad wolf.

        1. David Greenwald

          That line comes from this essay from 20 years ago in the Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/02/the-capitalist-threat/376773/

          He’s juxtaposing the concept of open society as formulated by Karl Popper (Open Society and Its Enemies) which found that communism and totalitarianism were the biggest threats to an open society.

          What he argues here is that unchecked markets are the modern day threat to an open society.

          “Unless it is tempered by the recognition of a common interest that ought to take precedence over particular interests, our present system — which, however imperfect, qualifies as an open society — is liable to break down.  I want to emphasize, however, that I am not putting laissez-faire capitalism in the same category as Nazism or communism…”

          So you’ve quoted a sensational quote out of a long and actually complex and sophisticated essay.  The quote itself is a lot more benign than it appears out of context.

        2. Don Shor

          Although I have made a fortune in the financial markets, I now fear that the untrammeled intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society. The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.

          He wrote that in 1997, so not long after the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. He was very actively involved in supporting democracy and government transparency there, against the constant threat of authoritarianism.
          Here is the article from which your quote is lifted.
          https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/02/the-capitalist-threat/376773/
          It is quite incisive and accurately reflects what was happening in Russia and other countries as their totalitarian regimes converted to kleptocracies.
          His opposition to the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004, and his sponsorship of the Democracy Alliance (along with Steyer and others) is what galvanized American conservatives to oppose Soros. But much of the opposition is pretty unhinged, some of it borders on old-fashioned anti-Semitism, and the picture painted of his actions and goals is simplistic and distorted. I urge you to review what he’s done with his money around the world and try to avoid knee-jerk caricatures.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Soros#Political_involvement

        3. Jeff M

          Soros is a leader of the liberal global new world order.

          There are three types of people in this act: producers, looters and moochers.

          The looters want the global new world order because it provides a larger field from which to loot.  Soros has made his money gambling in the investment markets.  He really has not produced anything of value and hence he is a looter.  Most of Wall Street are in the looter category.   They all are pursuing their self interest of a bigger sand box to play in.

          His ideas are a threat to the US and its system.

          And his ideas are a threat to humanity and he lies about supporting capitalism and democracy as there is no way either survive in the version of a world he promotes.  He is just a typical elite collectivist… state control of everything for the greater good of the whole.  He is as dangerous and dastardly as informed conservatives make him out to be.   He is much more dangerous to the US than are the Koch Brothers.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “Soros is a leader of the liberal global new world order.”

            You definitely swallow a lot of… conspiracy theories.

        4. David Greenwald

          “Well Soros admits this in the very article you and Don quote.”

          That’s the article where your quoted phrase was located.  I see no reference in there to liberal new world order.  Perhaps you can cite the exact quote you are referring to.

        5. Jeff M

          Perhaps you can cite the exact quote you are referring to.

          Now this is getting fun…

          POPPER showed that fascism and communism had much in common, even though one constituted the extreme right and the other the extreme left, because both relied on the power of the state to repress the freedom of the individual. I want to extend his argument. I contend that an open society may also be threatened from the opposite direction — from excessive individualism. Too much competition and too little cooperation can cause intolerable inequities and instability.

          He does not have to say the word “liberal” along with all the frequent times he says “new world order” because he defines liberal orthodoxy in all his ideas.  And we are not talking classic liberal… it is all the same head echos of modern western elites that lean left.

          “Excessive individualism”

          “Too much competition”

          “Too little cooperation”

          “intolerable inequities”

          These are all the impulses of American liberal “think” tanks.  They are the same old ideas that ironically for Soros leads down the path of pure collectivism with central control that he originally claimed to be fighting against.  Because the only way to suppress individualism and competition is to do with state-controlled bullets.  That is why neoliberalism leads to socialism that becomes more Marxism that eventually leads to communism.  Because the results suck, the people start to rebel and the looters in control have to bring in the weapons to retain their loot and their control of the loot.  Soros says he is for more democracy, yet he decries Trump and Brexit as mistakes that need to be corrected with more central control.

          The fact that so many well-educated and well-read (note I did not write “intelligent”) sophisticates like Soros subscribe to this hogwash leads me to believe in Darwinism…  that it is a natural and repeated cycle of human existence to wipe out another several hundred million people off the planet.  Either the people with these ideas are blind, or they are intellectually dishonest.  My opinion is that he knows better and is pursuing his own selfish interest.

          The debate is not profound… it is fundamental and so pedestrian that it is boring.

          It is the choice for more freedom and decentralization, or more rules and central control.

          We debate it in our families.

          We debate it in companies.

          We debate it in our communities.

          We debate it at a national level.

          And people like Soros and Obama wanted to take it to the global level.

          But in the US we already decided and then absolutely proved that the focus on more individual freedom and decentralized decision authority, although certainly a flawed system, made for the best system ever devised.    Soros need to get his effing nose out of our business.  Soros justifies another Joe McCarthy.

          1. Don Shor

            Sigh… excuse me while I become nostalgic about the memory of Joe McCarthy.
            — Oct.10, 2010

            I might welcome a little McCarthyism today because there is nobody watching the media and Hollywood.
            — Aug. 11, 2011

            I think the stakes are high enough that I would even welcome back a little Joe McCarthy.
            — Dec. 9, 2011

            I think we need a more reserved Joseph McCarthy at this point in time.
            Feb. 22, 2014

            But I really wish we had some form of McCarthyism back to deal with those that embrace Mao and Stalin as some type of mis-understood heroes.
            — April 15, 2014

            Joe McCarthy is needed at this point in time.
            — June 15, 2015.

            We just need to get back to more measured and practical McCarthyism to help combat this slide downward.
            — Aug. 25, 2015

            Makes an American opine for a bit of McCarthyism to put it all back in the box.
            — May 4, 2016.

            Soros justifies another Joe McCarthy.
            — Oct 10 2018

        6. Jeff M

          Wow, apparently the moderator has better search capability than the rest of us.

          But I am impressed with my consistency.

          When it makes sense, repeat it.

          There is great value in an extreme defense against the extreme offense.  However, there is always a cost too.

           

        7. Howard P

          “When it makes sense, repeat it.”

          Yeah… when it makes “sense” to them… convinced some here have a ‘master document’ that they cut and paste from…

    1. Keith O

      You know, Soros is getting pretty old. I am wondering who the right is going to use as their next “Big bad wolf” when he is gone. Any suggestions?

      That’s totally hillarious from someone who often complains about the Koch Brothers.

      1. Don Shor

        That’s totally hillarious from someone who often complains about the Koch Brothers.

        I think Tia has mentioned the Koch brothers twice since 2014, per the search function. Once was in a sentence that included “Soros or the Koch brothers.”
        Nice try, though.
        Is there some actual connection of any of these big-time political donors to this topic?

        1. Keith O

          Is there some actual connection of any of these big-time political donors to this topic?

          I don’t know but you and David seem to be participating.  Why are you now calling my post out when this subject has been commented on for a couple of hours?

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