Safe Beaches San Diego, the group pushing for an alcohol ban on city beaches, has filed a complaint with the city’s Ethics Commission and the state Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that two groups funding opposition to its campaign engaged in “money laundering and campaign reporting violations.”

The complaint comes on the heels of our story Monday, which detailed the connection between two groups opposing the ban, known as Proposition D. One of those groups, the San Diego Safe Beaches Coalition (not to be confused with pro-Prop. D Safe Beaches San Diego), claims independence from the liquor industry, even though a billboard directing readers to its website is paid for by You Empower Our Community, a group backed solely by the alcohol and tobacco industry.

The complaint claims a number of violations by the two groups, including late filing of campaign disclosures, and manipulating the city’s reporting requirements by setting up committees that don’t file statements directly with the city.

From the letter:

Both committees were illegally established as “general purpose” committees, in a thinly-veiled attempt to avoid the legal requirement to file disclosure reports with the San Diego City Clerk, even though neither committee has made any expenditures for ballot measures or candidates other than Prop. D.

Here’s some background from our story on that:

The late filing stemmed from an unusual system of campaign disclosures that, whether intentional or not, keeps the groups’ records at arm’s length from the public. It’s an arrangement unique to ballot propositions and, while their campaign disclosures are still public record, obtaining them means checking with the city of San Diego, the county registrar of voters and the Secretary of State to get a full picture of who donated funds to the campaigns.

Instead of registering itself as an opponent of the ballot measure, the Safe Beaches Coalition registered itself as a General Purposes Committee with the county, meaning that it could ostensibly spend money on ballot measures or candidates other than just Prop D. Its financial disclosure forms are therefore registered with the county and not tied to the proposition through the city’s online filing system.

The letter also points out something we overlooked in that first story. As well as sharing a treasurer, both You Empower Our Community and the San Diego Safe Beaches Coalition employ the same political consultant: The La Jolla Group.

You Empower Our Community has paid more than $35,000 to the consultant, according to state campaign finance records. San Diego Safe Beaches Coalition has spent about $15,000 on the same consultant, according to its disclosures.

It’s not uncommon in local political campaigns for improprieties to be alleged by both sides of an issue. The group opposing an alcohol ban, for example, has said that many of its campaign signs have been stolen in recent weeks.

We’re waiting for a response from the anti-Prop. D campaign and will post it when we have one.


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