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When I talked to Ethics Commission Executive Director Stacey Fulhorst recently about whether City Councilman Brian Maienschein could transfer his stash of money from a previous campaign into his nascent run for city attorney, she said she could only talk about the law not specifically about him.

Now, she can talk about his issue specifically.

The Ethics Commission just issued an advice letter opining that Maienschein can very much use the stash for his run.

Remember, the issue brought up by former Poway Mayor Jan Goldsmith was whether that was legal considering Maienschein built that stash in 2004, and the city has a law prohibiting people from raising money for a campaign more than a year before the election. Goldsmith even went so far as to accuse Fulhorst and the Ethics Commission of trying to protect Maienschien’s candidacy after Fulhorst talked about the law with me. Goldsmith then jabbed at the city for not having prepared for this eventuality.

The Ethics Commission said, yes, the city has that law prohibiting donations prior to a year before the election, but it only applies if the donations were specifically meant for that election. If they came to the candidate as part of a previous campaign, they are clean.

Soliciting or accepting campaign contributions to support your 2008 candidacy, however, is not equivalent to transferring contributions from an earlier committee. The funds in the 2004 Committee were solicited and accepted for a 2004 Council District race; they were not collected for the 2008 City Attorney race.

The only thing that’s odd about this is that the Ethics Commission doesn’t consider Maienschein’s 2004 City Council donations part of this 2008 effort in order to hold that they weren’t raised illegally.

But then the commission goes on to opine that those donors from 2004 can’t give to Maienschein again because they’ll already be counted as donors to this new campaign …

And that brings us to the fun part. This is what Maienschein and his accountant have to do to make the transfer.

… if an individual makes a contribution to support you in the 2008 primary election prior to a transfer of funds from the 2004 Committee, the amount attributed to that individual in a transfer may not cause the total amount of contributions from that individual to exceed the $320 contribution limit applicable to the primary election. For example, if someone gives you a $100 contribution for the 2008 primary election, you may attribute no more than $220 to that individual when transferring funds from the 2004 Committee to the 2008 Committee for the 2008 primary election. In addition, if you transfer $250 from the 2004 Committee and attribute it to a particular individual for the 2008 primary election, that individual may not subsequently give the 2008 Committee more than $70 in additional contributions for the 2008 primary election without exceeding contribution limits.

He should set aside a few thousand dollars for the inevitable Ethics Commission fines he’ll have to pay when he screws that up.

SCOTT LEWIS

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