When even the state of California agrees one of its largest public-sector unions looks dirty, something must be very wrong.
On Feb. 16, the enforcement arm of the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission announced it would investigate a complaint filed in January by the Freedom Foundation, alleging the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) has spent more than five years trying to camouflage millions of dollars’ worth of illegal political spending of its members’ dues.
According to CSLEA’s website, before the page was removed, 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 individual workers 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 unionized lifeguards who’ve successfully opted out of the union thanks to the Freedom Foundation.
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 its PAC are 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 its PACs 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,” said Sam Coleman, outreach director for the Freedom Foundation’s California operation.
“Government employee unions have perfected the art of concealing the extent to which they play politics with someone else’s money,” he added. “They hide the truth from the general public, and from their own members, to keep both from discovering how much influence over our political processes unions like CSLEA have been able to buy.
“But this time it looks like they got caught with their fingers in the cookie jar.”