California Campaign Watchdog Fines Legal Marijuana Opponents

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California’s campaign watchdog said Monday that it is proposing fines of nearly $10,000 against opponents of the state’s new recreational marijuana law for violations last year.

The Fair Political Practices Commission announced the actions against two campaign committees that unsuccessfully fought Proposition 64. About 57 percent of voters approved legalizing recreational pot in November.

The first state ballot measure committee, Public and Mental Health Advocates Against 64, agreed to a $3,500 fine for being slow to change its advertising disclosures to publicly identify nonprofit SAM Action Inc. as a donor that contributed more than $50,000.

SAM Action’s contributions reached $64,150 in late June, but weren’t properly disclosed until the watchdog commission’s staff complained about two weeks before the election. By that time the committee had already posted billboards and aired internet radio advertising in English and television ads in Spanish.

The commission’s staff said there was no evidence the committee attempted to conceal SAM Action’s involvement.

The second group, A Committee Against Proposition 64 with Help from Citizens, agreed to pay $6,000 for several violations including being late in filing a Top 10 list of contributors after it raised $1 million.

The commission said the nonprofit committee’s staff was unfamiliar with California’s campaign laws when it failed to report receiving $1,364,000 in donations from a trust fund set up by Pennsylvania activist Juliet F. Schauer, a retired art professor.

The fines will be considered by commissioners on April 20.

“They come in and they threaten you with big fines or you can settle for a little one. It’s in the rearview mirror,” said Wayne Johnson, a consultant with the No on 64 campaign.