LCP fined for election code violations in connection with Voice of the Coast


Posted by
Mon, January 11, 2010


The League for Coastside Protection [LCP] has been fined $3,500 for two election code violations in connection with the "Voice of the Coast", a newspaper published by the LCP in the months before the 2005 election, reports Julia Scott in County Times.

The LCP, a political action committee, did not identify the name and address of the organization on the outside of the newspaper. It also misreported the amount of money it received from two contributors, Jim Marsh and Mike Ferreira, who took out ads in the paper and were

later

endorsed by LCP for the Coastside County Water District and Half Moon Bay City Council.

"We support the commission and their purpose," [league Co-Chairman Scott Boyd] said. "We agree with them that when we looked closely at this stuff we did make these mistakes."

Boyd also emphasized that the money his group accepted from candidates went to purchase paid ads in the newsletter and did not influence the content of the publication. [...]

[Executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission Roman] Porter added that the fines for both violations were well below the $10,000 they could have fetched. Documents show his agency was inclined toward leniency because the League for Coastside Protection had contacted the commission during the 2005 election to seek advice on publishing the Voice of the Coast and because the group did print its name and committee identification number on the inside of the newsletter, if not the outside. The Coastside group also amended its reported contributions after it realized it had miscalculated them.

Disclosure: Voice of the Coast reprinted some articles from Coastsider. All articles on Coastsider are covered by a license that allows free re-use by anyone, with attribution.


No comments on this story, Barry? Not even from you on the League for Coastside Protection’s deceptive “Voice of the Coast?” I’d think that you, as a publisher, would appreciate the Fair Political Practices Commission’s finding that the LCP’s political rag violated the law by attempting to appear to be a legitimate newspaper.

I guess since you allowed it to reprint Coastsider.com articles, that might explain your likely dismissal of the seriousness of the violation.

btw, while true that the fine was well below the $10,000 limit, it’s also true that the ruling discussed the “intent to deceive the voting public.”  Also, the fine was the “typical administrative penalty” for a (serious) “mass mailing violation”... “in the low-to-mid range of available penalties.”

I consider election violations to be serious business. If you don’t condemn the LCP’s deceptive actions (remember, it’s not me saying that, that’s the FPPC’s ruling), I think we’ll all learn something about Coastsider.com’s editorial position.

In fact, I’d love it if you’d send a (deserved) Thank You card to George Muteff for filing the original complaint and supporting real journalists, but I doubt you’ll ever admit that he’s on the right side of this decision. (Though he clearly is, according to the FPPC.)

Comment 2
Fri, January 15, 2010 12:46pm
Kevin Barron
All my comments

“I think we’ll all learn something about Coastsider.com’s editorial position.”

Joel, it wasn’t blatantly clear enough before?

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a $3500 fine for putting an organizational ID on the wrong page and then making a minor arithmetic mistake when adding up a column of numbers. Thank goodness for the FPPC. They are helping to make the world safe for democracy.

Maybe the FPPC should next investigate the HMB Review for its longstanding practice of serving as the political voice of the Old Guard while claiming to be a newspaper.

For as much a stickler as Kevin Lansing is on following the rules, I’m a bit surprised he isn’t appreciative that the Fair Political Practices Commission enforced the law. Maybe in his world you can choose which laws to obey, but election violations are serious business; don’t try to claim it was a minor error.

All those Coastsider.com readers who aren’t familiar with the facts should realize the FPPC found the League for Coastside Protection violated the law, and fined the LCP for its deceptive practices. 

I fail to see the merits of continuing to argue that being found guilty of “intent to deceive the voting public” isn’t bad, and that the LCP broke the law only a bit. Um, twice.

Some technical rules were violated. Does this rise to a major political scandal that the Review and others are trying to make it out as? Of course not, but that’s not the objective. The objective (of some) is to use something like a minor traffic ticket as a means to discredit a local coastal protection organization.

Comment 6
Tue, January 19, 2010 1:16pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

Joel, since the LCP put their names on Voice of the Coast, it’s hard to argue that there was in intent to deceive anyone. This looks more like a technical violation following some bad advice from the FPPC itself. From the County Times:

Documents show [the FPPC] was inclined toward leniency because the League for Coastside Protection had contacted the commission during the 2005 election to seek advice on publishing the Voice of the Coast and because the group did print its name and committee identification number on the inside of the newsletter, ...

But as a dedicated opponent of “intent to deceive the voting public”, you must be on the record opposing the far more egregious and anonymous attack ad that Jolanda Schreuers, Kirk Riemer, Chris Mickelsen, and Jim Larimer bought in the last week of the 2004 school board election.

As I’m sure you recall, rather than put their names on the ad, they used a phony “ID Pending”.

Funny how the Review forgot to mention the comparison with the notorious Mickelsen-Larimer-Schreurs-Riemer engineered anonymous attack ad in the 2004 school board election. 

Schreurs and Riemer are till on the school board, by the way. And we may have a parcel tax vote coming up.

I find it even harder to argue that this is only some small technical rule violation (which the LCP P.R. team is in overdrive trying to claim) when the FPPC investigated a complaint and ultimately found the LCP in violation (of two separate laws), then levied a fine

In my mind, a legitimate publisher (and the general public) would be thrilled that a regulatory agency assessed penalties when it found people (or organizations) guilty of “intent to deceive the voting public.

If you condone the LCP’s actions, or try to excuse them in this instance, you’re letting your friendships cloud your judgment.

Comment 9
Wed, January 20, 2010 8:56pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

Joel, what are your talking about?

You wrote:

btw, while true that the fine was well below the $10,000 limit, it’s also true that the ruling discussed the “intent to deceive the voting public.” 

and

a regulatory agency assessed penalties when it found people (or organizations) guilty of “intent to deceive the voting public.

The only use of the phrase “intent to deceive” in the decision is here:

Additionally, the Enforcement Division considers the facts and circumstances of the violation in context of the factors set forth in Regulation 18361.5, subilivision (dXl)-(6): the seriousness of the violations; the presence or lack of intent to deceive the voting public [emphasis added]; whether the violation was deliberate, negligent, or inadvertent; whether the Respondent demonstrated good faith in consulting with Commission staff; and whether there was a pattern of violations.

In other words, there was no finding of “intent to deceive”.

Look it up. You can download the lousy pdf of the decision and my unedited OCR of the lousy pdf from Coastsider.

I think you owe the LCP an apology for your mischaracterization of the decision.  Unless of course it was your intent to deceive us.

Are you kidding me? “Intent to deceive” is the standard, and the LCP clearly violated that. Read it as an impartial observer, not as someone who got caught and is still trying to make excuses. The apology needs to come from the League for Coastside Protection and the Voice of the Coast authors, and not from people like me who support the FPPC’s ruling and aren’t fooled by the LCP’s nefarious practices.

Comment 11
Thu, January 21, 2010 12:12pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

You either don’t understand what you read, or you’re trying to pull a fast one. 

“Intent to deceive” is a potential aggravating factor, not the “standard”. The letter clearly states that in determining a penalty, the commission considers “the presence or lack of intent to deceive the voting public; ” You removed the phrase “presence or lack” from your out-of-context quote and clearly suggested (twice) that the phrase was part of the finding.  It was not.

The FPPC found that the LCP violated the Act, but not that there was an intent to deceive. If it had, this would have been listed under the aggravating factors, which it was not.

Here’s the finding:

Respondent was at all relevant times a General Purpose Committee. As a committee, Respondent sent out a mass mailing of more than 200 substantial similar pieces of mail, the Voice of the Coast, on November 1, 2005. This mailing did not contain the Respondent’s name, street address or city on the outside of the mailing. By sending a mass mailing without proper identification, Respondent violated Section 84305 of the Act.

No mention of intent.

Here are the aggravating factors:

By publishing the Voice of the Coast to appear as a regular newspaper, the public may have been deprived of knowing the true source of the publication.

No mention of intent, plus some uncertainty about whether it was even deceptive.

Mitigating factors:

In mitigation, Respondent attempted on several occasions to seek advice from the FPPC on the publication. The Respondent also provided the committee ID number and address on the inside of the publication.

Sounds like a technical violation to me.

The LCP screwed up on the attribution, but they put their name on the Voice of the Coast. They should have done a better job, and they paid a price in terms of their reputation and their bank account.

Your accusations of a double standard are pretty hollow.  In that very same election, Naomi Patridge claimed that Rich Gordon had endorsed her, although he had not.  Read my comments on that story and let me know if I was any tougher on her than on the LCP.

Joel, why waste your time?
Any reasonable individual can understand the complaint and the result.
Do you really believe, even for a millisecond, that you will get Parr, Boyd, Lynch, Ferreira or any of their ‘associates’ to admit wrongdoings and apologize? I suspect you’ve got a better chance of being President of these United States before that’ll happen.
It is what it is. It took forever, but accountability has been accomplished; at least for this issue.
I do find this thread’s posts entertaining though. From Lansing (of all people): “Some technical rules were violated.”
to Parr: “No mention of intent, plus some uncertainty about whether it was even deceptive.”
I mean really, Joel, you just have to laugh. You will never convince those here you argue with, and they will never convince you (or me either), so what’s the point…unless you simply want to have a little fun.
There have been so many truly egregious matters afforded our town by those very same people, that have yet to reach accountability. Just let this one pass and let’s sit back and see what else may pop up down the line.
The important point, in my mind, is that the intentional wrongs performed by that group have been identified and hopefully, one by one, brought to accountability.
Now let’s move on.

George, you should really take the time to read what Joel actually wrote.

He quoted the phrase “intent to deceive” twice.  You know as well as I do that this is not what the LCP was fined for.

It would appear that it was Joel Farbstein who had the “intent to deceive the voting public” by taking the quote out of context and omitting the immediately preceding full words - “the presence or lack of” - of the quote: “the presence or lack of intent to deceive the voting public”.

Thank you Barry for providing the document and link so the public could judge just who is attempting to deceive the public. I was rightfully suspicious when reading Joel’s snippet without attribution or link.

Mr. Farbstein and Mr. George Muteff are entitled to express their own opinions but certainly not their own ‘facts’.

As to the HMB Review, well, they are hopeless! And should have a similar disclosure on the front of anything the mail - I would not personally characterize their publication as a newspaper!

Ken Johnson

If there were no “intent to deceive” by the LCP, this thread (and the fine) wouldn’t exist. Everything I wrote is true; you guys are just too close to the violators to see it.  (Or maybe you ARE the violators!) It is really pathetic:
1. What the LCP did (no argument, lest there be no fine),
2. That you continue to try to make excuses for it,
3. That you think election violations are NOT a bad thing, and
4. You’re incapable of accepting responsibility.
(and 5, that you don’t see that George Muteff just giftwrapped a workable plan of action with the FPPC if your opposition ever tries the same deceitful tactics.)

Joel, I reported the fine using an impartial source, I’ve made the FPPC letter available to the community, and (unlike you) quoted liberally from it.

It’s time for the readers to decide whether they prefer my approach or your use of context-free scare phrases. They should also ask themselves whether you hold yourself to the same standard of accuracy and fairness to which you hold others.

I’m comfortable with their judgement.