Local Democrats Hammered with Heavy Fines for Reporting Violations

campaign-financeThe Vanguard has learned that the Davis Democratic Club is being fined for multiple election law reporting and filing violations, from a period that began in 2007 and ended in 2010.

According to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) website, the Davis Democratic Club stipulated to four counts of violating state election laws.  While the initial fines faced by the club as the result of the FPPC’s findings were far greater, they eventually negotiated the settlement down to 9,500 dollars.  The settlement has been placed on the FPPC agenda for the Commission to review and approve at their March 15, 2012 meeting.

In response to an inquiry from the Vanguard prior to a club election in which the leadership of the organization ran unopposed, President Arun Sen emailed the Vanguard.

Mr. Sen, speaking on behalf of the club, told the Vanguard, “Over the past year the Davis Democratic Club received requests from the FPPC and we gave them everything that was requested.”

The statement continued, “It was not until December 2011 that we learned of any allegations and potential fines. The allegations and fines were a result of errors regarding our financial filings over the past five years. Since that time, Betty Weir, Richard Yamagata, Carl Schmid and myself have been working with the FPPC to negotiate a settlement.”

He continued, “We entered into a closed session meeting on February 7 so that the full Board could be informed and discussed these negotiations and vote on how to proceed. Once a ruling has been hopefully issued on March 15 we will release a full and detailed account of the allegation, stipulations and fines negotiation process to our membership. At no time was it our intention to keep any club member in the dark on what was happening.”

Mr. Sen declined further comment via phone on Monday morning.

The Vanguard learned of this matter from Mark Pruner of the Yolo County Republican Party, who filed the complaint with the FPPC.  Mr. Pruner also filed complaints against the Club with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) for reporting and spending violations.

Simultaneously, Mr. Pruner had filed complaints against the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee (YCDCC) and their Treasurers Bob Bockwinkel and Bill Julian, with both the FPPC and the FEC for violating both state and federal election codes. On behalf of the YCDCC, Treasurers Bob Bockwinkel and Bill Julian negotiated the stipulations and fines from both agencies against the Central Committee

“I am glad that all four complaints against the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee (YCDCC) and the Davis Democratic Club have now resolved,” Mr. Pruner told the Vanguard in an emailed statement.

“Both groups and their treasurers have admitted to numerous violations of both federal and state statutes,” he said.  “As a lead plaintiff before the United States Supreme Court attempting to overturn the political money disclosure laws it violated, the YCDCC is one of the most sophisticated county political entities in the state.”

He added, “The YCDCC knew the laws requiring disclosure of political money received and spent.  It hurts the democratic process when political organizations make the choice to operate in the dark.  The playing field is now level, as it should have been all along.”

The Vanguard understands that the original amount of the FPPC penalty against the Davis Democratic Club was $45,000.00 but was negotiated down to $9,500.00 (at the time, the entire balance of the club’s treasury), with several of the club’s officers stipulating to the violations.

Beginning in December 2011 and through January 2012 the $9,500.00 fine, stipulations and settlement with the FPPC were secretly negotiated and agreed to by a few officers of the club.

They did this without informing the club’s full board that the club was facing any FPPC problems, let alone serious charges and fines.

They then revealed in February, for the first time, the charges and asked for approval of the settlement by the full board in a closed session that would likely be illegal under the Brown Act (California’s Open Disclosure Law) if it were to apply to a club in the same manner, as the act does to any political party’s county central committee in California, since the item was not properly noticed nor reported to the full board or the general club membership prior to the vote.

The efforts to keep the full board and the general membership in the dark and downplay the severity of the findings and the fines is alarming.

Elizabeth Weir is the listed treasurer, but she is 97 years of age at this present date and therefore the club officers, including President Arun Sen, Vice President Mike Syvanen, Secretary Richard Yamagata, Membership Chair Carl Schmid, board member & former President Bob Bockwinkel and ex-officio board member Bill Julian (who is an attorney and election law specialist) bear primary responsibility for committing the reporting errors, stipulating to those errors and negotiating the fines for settlement of the case.

Again, both Mr. Bockwinkel and Mr. Julian were named defendants in the FEC and FPPC actions against the YCDCC.

The FPPC website reports: “Respondents Davis Democratic Club, a county general purpose committee, and Respondent Elizabeth R. Weir, Treasurer failed to file a first preelection campaign statement for the reporting period July 1, 2008, through September 30, 2008, due October 6, 2008, and a second preelection campaign statement for the reporting period October 1, 2008, through October 18, 2008, by the October 23, 2008 due date, in violation of Government Code Sections 84200.5, subdivision (d), and 84200.7 (1 count).”

The club  also “both understated and overstated the balance of cash on the semiannual reporting periods for calendar years 2007, 2008 and 2009, on the semiannual campaign statement for the reporting period ending June 30, 2010, by up to approximately $11,449 (understated) and $9,495 (overstated), in violation of Government Code Section 84211, subdivision (e) (1 count)”

Furthermore, they “failed to disclose information regarding contributions received and expenditures made of $100 or more on the semiannual reporting periods for calendar years 2007, 2008 and 2009 and 2010, in violation of Government Code Section 84211, subdivisions (a), (b), (f), and (k) (1 count).”

Finally, they “failed to maintain proper records to support the campaign statements filed for the reporting periods of calendar years 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, in violation of Government Code Section 84104 (1 count).”  (See link).

To settle the FEC matter Bill Julian, representing the Davis Democratic Club in January 2010, stipulated to violations of the election code for independent expenditures and agreed that the Club would designate a compliance specialist to evaluate all future campaign related activities for compliance with state law and the FECA.  No fine was assessed against the Club in this matter.

The FPPC Stipulations, Decisions and Orders against the YCDCC for reporting and spending violations cover the years 2004 through 2010.    (See link). The FEC Stipulations and Settlement cover the years from 2002 to 2008.  (See link).

During those years, first Bob Bockwinkel and then Bill Julian served as treasurer of the committee.  To settle the FPPC matter, both Mr. Bockwinkel and Mr. Julian, on behalf of the YCDCC stipulated to violations of the state election code with Mr. Bockwinkel stipulating to four counts and Mr. Julian stipulating to three counts.

The Vanguard understands that the original FPPC penalty against the YCDCC was $27,500.00 but was negotiated down to $13,500.00, with the YCDCC’s executive board agreeing to the stipulations and fines in January 2011.  To settle the FEC matter, the YCDCC’s executive board agreed to the stipulations and a fine of $1,500.00 in January 2010.  Both settlements were not brought to the full membership of the YCDCC, but instead revealed as a fait accompli.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

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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  1. Phil Coleman

    The age of the Club’s Secretary is identified with no explanation of relevance. The ages of all the other named Club members are not. What is the relevance of the Treasurer being age 97? If the inference is that she is not able to do her duties because of her advanced age, say so, and then try to defend it as a causal factor in the illegal reporting.

    For anyone to intimate that a person is disabled because of age alone with no validity is age discrimination. Add that to the list of violation of state and federal law.

  2. Michael Harrington

    I’m not clear. Are there lots of Nixonion felonious bad to the bone acts and bad intent, or the usual volunteer club process breakdowns in paperwork and money handling, serious as they are?

  3. David M. Greenwald

    My biggest concern is that the decisions were made in an unnoticed closed door meeting involving five individuals, who voted and made the decisions, without involving or even informing the rank and file. The minutes that were sent out to the rank and file only indicated a meeting on a sensitive matter. And suddenly the entire treasury was gone.

    From my perspective, had it been merely a fine for mistakes, this is a non-issue.

  4. Mr Obvious

    [quote]My biggest concern is that the decisions were made in an unnoticed closed door meeting involving five individuals, who voted and made the decisions, without involving or even informing the rank and file. ……[/quote]

    Were the clubs bylaws followed in how the meeting was handled?

  5. JustSaying

    “While Elizabeth Weir is the listed treasurer, but she is 97 years of age at this present date and therefore the club officers…bear primary responsibility for committing the reporting errors….”

    Ageism, alive and well in our beloved Vanguard?

  6. David M. Greenwald

    No agism. I love Betty, but she’s the treasurer in name only and shouldn’t be thrown under the bus because it’s her name on the complaint.

  7. JustSaying

    “They then revealed in February for the first time the charges and asked for approval of the settlement by the full board in a closed session that would likely be illegal under the Brown Act (California’s Open Disclosure Law) if it were to apply to a club in the same manner as the Act does to any political party’s county central committee….”

    Does it go without saying that the Brown Act does NOT apply here any more than California’s laws against murder, rape and jay-walking? As usual, Mr Obvious asks the obvious, relevant question about the club’s own rules. Maybe board action is a violation, maybe not.

    In either case, violating political practices laws is a serious business, especially when carried out over such an extended period (and by such a varied-age bunch of treasurers!). “Ignorance of the law….”

  8. JustSaying

    “No agism. I love Betty….”

    “Some of my best friends are geezers who can’t be held responsible for doing their jobs right because they’re so old. I also love my _______ (fill in blank) friends in spite of their _______-ness (fill in blank).”

  9. Mr.Toad

    Meanwhile Citizens united allows for undisclosed and unlimited amounts of money to be spent on elections by Political Action Committees. So there really is another reason that the Dems rule locally besides the money, its because the Reps have alienated so many groups that they have a small tent under which to operate.

  10. E Roberts Musser

    I read an interesting article on the internet the other day – can’t remember from what publication. Basically the gist of it was why bother with campaign finance reform at all – the political groups will find some way to line the pockets of politicians no matter how many laws we pass. The Super PACS level the playing field between the incumbent, who has the bully pulpit and the greater inherent ability to raise money, and his opponents who have to pay to appear on television and the like. Not sure if I agree or not, but it was a thought provoking article…

  11. Ryan Kelly

    Sounds like really sloppy bookkeeping. Too many people “filling in” for the treasurer and no one watching what was being done. Being volunteers doesn’t excuse not keeping track of the money. Each of these men are business people and should know how to record transactions and balance a check book. It is not difficult. They could have hired a bookkeeper for money than they paid in fines.

  12. Michael Harrington

    I think the Demo Club leadership needs to have an all-hands membership meeting, with documentation, and explain to us how this happened, and what their plan is going forward. I contribute every year, and assumed that things were being handled correctly by the business and political pros that form the core of the officers of the Club.

  13. Anne

    Michael, Don’t assume. I, like you and others, assumed too and look where it got us (the Democratic Club). Time to wipe the slate clean and bring in a new officers that had absolutely nothing to do with this.

    David, You state that Bill Julian is an election “expert?” If so, he should know better. The whole story is disturbing. They should have come clean to all of the membership.

  14. Mr.Toad

    Mike are you a Democrat? I’ve never seen you at a Democrat event. Could it be you are still smarting about the way the Dems came out against at the last minute when you were up for re-election? I think the Dems can figure out how to fix their own problems without the assistance of people who have not participated in any party activities.

  15. Michael Harrington

    I think I have been a member for a long time. Could be a lapse for a few months here and there because I forgot to send in a check, but I am invited to most events. I like the Club, and I send contributions to assist others with the time to carry out party building activities. Wish I could go to more events, as they are fun.

    Mr. Toad: I took 4 weeks out of my office and personal life, and nearly $10K out of pocket, to run the water referendum to put the Sept 6 water rates on the ballot. They were demonstrated to be fraudulent, and the CC pulled them on 12/6. We put a time out on that nearly $600 million dollar rip off of the poor rate payers in Davis and Woodland. Now our WAC has the job of sorting it out, and only the referendum gave them time to work.

    Now, Mr. Toad, what have YOU done lately to promote democracy in our little city? Go to your meetings and stand in the corner with a beer, buddy, and chat about whatever myopic political drama in town excites you for the week. Obviously you were not paying attention to your dues, were you? I suggest you do less standing around and more paying attention to Club process and reports.

  16. Michael Harrington

    Ryan Kelly: the Club web site lists me as a member back to at least 2009; guess you missed a year.

    Odd Man Out: Why are you asking for a moderator? The promotion of democratic voting is the ideal that our country represents and promotes around the world, and one of the goals of the Club. Toad’s self-reported comments demonstrates that he officiously stands around at private club social events, puffed up, and feels like a Good Democrat, monitoring WHO is there and part of the In Crowd. Others, such as Pam Neiberg and countless others in town actually carry out democratic ideals. I’ll take the latter.

  17. Ryan Kelly

    [quote]Toad’s self-reported comments demonstrates that he officiously stands around at private club social events, puffed up, and feels like a Good Democrat, monitoring WHO is there and part of the In Crowd.[/quote]

    Too funny. This sounds exactly like a description of Mike Harrington.

  18. FreddieOakley

    I have followed this process since Mark Pruner first filed his charges. There were stories in the Davis paper at that time. I said then, and I will repeat it now: I am pretty disgusted that one political party would so ruthlessly go after another party’s local group on a question of such minor, technical merit. Honest to goodness!

    The rules involved are extremely burdensome and complicated. Where was the evil intent? Does anybody really believe that the Davis Democratic Club is a hotbed of corruption making a sustained effort to mislead the public about its finances? Really? I honestly believe that anyone who would persecute Betty Wier better be ready to answer for it when the roll is called up yonder.

    What a crock. Really. Along with ID at the polls, another effort to discourage participation in the democratic process. Grand Old Party my Aunt Fanny. Somebody should be ashamed. Seriously, deeply ashamed.

  19. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]What a crock. Really. Along with ID at the polls, another effort to discourage participation in the democratic process. Grand Old Party my Aunt Fanny. Somebody should be ashamed. Seriously, deeply ashamed. [/quote]

    So you are blaming the GOP for the Davis Democratic Club lapse? Really?

  20. oldguy


    From what I understand this is your job to make sure legally required forms be filed and report failures to do so. I also understand that the violations went back for many additional years and that the fines would have been much more greater except statues had expired. Did you ever send out any letters from your office reminding these entities to provide the required forms?? If you did, were they ever followed up on, or did you consider the law to not be important enough to be followed? You don’t think that Bill Julian (who completed all of the FEC forms, complete with his cover letters) was fully aware of what he was doing?

    I don’t know who is to blame – but we certainly should expect our public officeholders to have an interest in upholding the law.

  21. Ozzy_

    I’m happy to see that the Vanguard is taking the time to look into this subject – kudos to the Vanguard for their efforts and bringing it up for debate.

    FeddieOakley – I’m surprised and dismayed to see your comments. The fact that the rules involved are “burdensome and complicated” has not been a defense against wrongdoing in any facet of our legal system. For example, the fact that our IRS Tax Code is XXX pages long does not give the taxpayer a defense when the Auditor comes knocking, nor does it keep the ignorant taxpayer out of prison….. Failing to know the rules you have taken the obligation to follow is no defense. “Evil Intent”, as you put it, is not a necessary part of guilt. That is to say, I don’t have to have “evil intent” to be guilty of speeding on the highway. Merely not paying attention to my speedometer is sufficient to be guilty of the offense.

    Honestly, I don’t want to see ANY party manipulate the system to try to gain an edge.

    That’s why the rules that are so {burdensome & complicated) were created. And, as I understand it, your job is to ensure that the electoral process is fair and organized; all of the necessary paperwork taken care of at the appropriate time, and not to be partisan in any way. Once your position becomes one which is partial to one side of the aisle or the other, the integrity of the office comes into question. While so blatantly one-sided, I cannot believe you can fulfill your oath of office or safeguard the integrity of our electoral process. Please consider resigning your position to someone who can be objective and non-partisan, as the Clerk-Recorder must be.

    Just my opinion

  22. oldguy

    I agree, it is good to give all of this some fresh air. Ozzy’s point is well taken. With Freddie putting out her feelings about one group, I would also have to wonder if she can continue in her position. Did she attend any of the events or donate anything to either the Yolo Democratic Central Committee or the Davis Democratic Club? If so, then she clearly would know that reporting was required. During the same time in question 2008 – 2010 did she or her office do anything diffent to other political parties in Yolo County? My guess is that it is probably pretty expensive to file a lawsuit – so if Mr Pruner did so, it probably was due to a lack of responsibility of some public official. Sounds like we need to ask for the same open review of the County Clerk-Recorder as we are asking of the Club.

  23. FreddieOakley

    Wow. This is what I get for trying to be nice. Fact is, Dems have always filed forms on time and we have recieved them and sent on to FPPC. We do not have the authority to review them for accuracy or anything else.

    Fact is: The Reps failed to file for YEARS. We begged them to file, and finally turned their case over to the FPPC for action.

    We did everything we could to be understanding. These are little community groups attempting to do community service, really, and we try very hard to be understanding. I would have been equally shocked if the Dems had used that situation to hammer at the local Reps.

    Did anybody send out a press release? No. Not me, not the Dems. Then suddenly they come out all holier than y’all when an elderly lady and other volunteers make mistakes. That’s not nice. Not nice at all.

    Finally, I have nothing to do with any political party. I am a “decline to state” voter. What I do feel strongly about is kindness, openmindedness and civility. I don’t care much who gets elected or how the parties operate. What I do care about is creating nd maintaining an atmosphere in which ordinary Americans believe in their system of governance and have every opportunity to participate in it. And I will speak up about that every time.

    Come on down and investigate to your hearts’ content.

    One additional note, “Ozzy” and “OldGuy”, I stand up for what I believe in and give my true name to what I write. Who the heck are you, really? Hiding? How bold.

  24. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Fact is: The Reps failed to file for YEARS. We begged them to file, and finally turned their case over to the FPPC for action. [/quote]

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. Furthermore, what the Republicans did or did not do is irrelevant to what a local Democratic club did. I’m really surprised you are trying to tar the GOP with this lapse by a local Democratic club. It is fine to point out the lapse was perhaps not intentional, or was small potatoes. But to point the finger elsewhere at Group R for the mistakes of Group D does not seem fair to me…

  25. oldguy

    Got to agree. Freddie, will you take the bold step to request that the Grand Jury take a look at the history and publish it for all to see. Let’s cut the deck and see where the cards fall. Government should be open and honest.

    No hooting here. Just tired of all of the wink and nods that go on.

  26. FreddieOakley

    Hi Elaine – I guess I’m overly emotional on this. Just seems to me that sending out press releases is theatrical overkill, and,certainly, having a 96 year old volunteer served with legal papers in what is, arguably, political theater should be beneath anyone.

    On the subject of the Club keeping its members in the dark, I agree with most of you. That is, in my mind, wrong.

    Oldguy – I’m not sure what you are asking me to ask the Grand Jury to do, but I am happy to have them in. We have been reviewed before, most recently last year, when I agreed with their finding that we needed better instructions at busy polling places. I took their advice and remedied that problem that concerned them.

    Absolutely anything and everything that goes on in any of my offices is 100% open to public inspection and comment. Anyone is welcome at any time, and that includes the Grand Jury. I agree that government should be open and honest, and I try to be just that way. Email me and let me know what you want me to do — oakley@dcn.org I’ll be happy to talk to you!

    Signed Freddie – Doesn’t Even Go To The Beanfeed – Oakley

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