Freedom Foundation

Complaint alleges CSLEA reports only a fraction of its political spending

This week, the Freedom Foundation filed a campaign finance complaint against the California State Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) alleging more than five years — and millions of dollars — worth of illegal political spending of its members’ dues.

You may remember CSLEA as the union that attempted to continue deducting dues from more than 130 California lifeguards’ paychecks even after they submitted the forms necessary to opt out of union participation. We were successful in stopping dues for more than 100 of the lifeguards and launched litigation to fight for the others.

Today, the Freedom Foundation continues to fight for the rights of CSLEA’s dues payers by exposing the union as the corrupt political machine that it is.

A full version of the complaint can be found here.

According to CSLEA’s website, each member has $28 deducted per month that directly goes to political spending. In other words, CSLEA’s 5,123 members are all paying roughly $336 per year — a grand total of $1.7 million every year — to support the union’s favored candidates and causes.

Since the deductions come out automatically — and have since the worker first agreed to join — it’s likely few even realize it’s happening … especially since it’s not listed on CSLEA membership forms obtained from lifeguards we helped leave the union.

While $1.7 million is an eye-popping amount from a union that only represents about 7,000 members, it’s how CSLEA reports these kinds of payments that caught our attention.

California Government Code 84302 clearly lists how an intermediary group is supposed to legally report campaign contributions that come from a single source and exceed more than $100 in a calendar year. CSLEA is required to report the contributor’s first and last name, street address, occupation and the name of their employer.

However, on campaign finance documents, CSLEA simply lists the donors name as “From CSLEA as intermediary for individuals under $100.”

How is that even possible? How can CSLEA clearly state on its own website that it collects $336 yearly from every member but the donations to their PAC is less than $100 per person?

The answer is that CSLEA doesn’t have one PAC … it has five.

In an attempt to conceal the name, amount and number of donors, CSLEA created multiple “shell” PACs whose only purpose is to spread money around in an attempt to flout campaign finance laws.

In other words, it’s created a dark-money group.

While CSLEA has five PACs on paper, only three have registered with the IRS. In other words, at least two of their PAC’s don’t exist, they only exist on paper.

The good news is that California’s laws for campaign finance disclosure do not allow for this kind of clever accounting, and we believe CSLEA will be held to account for its misdeeds.

We have filed this campaign finance complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and will continue to provide updates as the story develops.