I talked today with Jacob Pyle, a spokesman for the San Diego Safe Beaches Coalition, a campaign committee that is opposing Proposition D., which would outlaw alcohol on city beaches.

Pyle responded to a complaint filed yesterday with the city’s Ethics Commission and the state Fair Political Practices Commission by the pro-Prop. D campaign. The letter alleges that Prop. D opponents engaged in “money-laundering and campaign reporting violations” by improperly setting up committees, filing financial disclosures late and concealing funding from the liquor industry.

Today, Pyle called those “false accusations,” saying the pro-Prop. D campaign is trying to distract the voters from its funding, which Pyle said comes from rich, beachfront property owners.

“This complaint is one of the many lies they are telling San Diego to trick them into voting away their rights,” he said.

Pyle also responded to specific allegations from the complaint:

  • The complaint alleges that the Prop. D opponents hid their financial disclosures by registering as general committees with the county and state instead of “primarily formed committees” with the city, which are formed for specific ballot measures.

    Pyle said the committees were formed legally and said the groups decided to file with the state and the county so they could tackle a number of issues in addition to Prop. D.

  • The letter also claims that the opponents of Prop. D are hiding where their financing comes from by setting up two separate committees opposing the measure. One of those committees, You Empower Our Community, has received more than $50,000 in financing from the alcohol and tobacco industry.

    The second committee, San Diego Safe Beaches Coalition, has claimed independence from the alcohol industry. However, the two committees have collaborated on at least one billboard effort.

    The complaint says that because of the arrangement, the two committees are not in fact independent of one another. It says that both campaigns use the same treasurer (Xavier Martinez) and political consultant (the La Jolla Group). Pyle acknowledged that the groups share the same treasurer. However, he said, his committee, the San Diego Safe Beaches Coalition, paid the La Jolla Group for slate mailers, not political consulting. “The fact that multiple groups and organizations are opposed to this doesn’t mean that multiple groups are not independent of each other,” Pyle said.

(For more background on Prop. D financing, check out this story from earlier in the week.)

Another point: The author of the complaint, James Lantry, implies that FreePB.org, which has donated $10,000 to the San Diego Safe Beaches Coalition, is not a non-profit because its paperwork isn’t on file with the Secretary of State. But when I called him yesterday and said I had the nonprofit tax documents for the organization, he acknowledged that they were on file with the IRS. He acknowledged that it just hadn’t been filed with the secretary of state. But that didn’t stop him from including the implication it in his letter to the FPPC. Here’s the relevant section of his letter (emphasis mine):

Additionally, the Safe Beaches Coalition has received the vast majority of its funding to date from a group called “FreePB.” Although the group’s website (freepb.org) claims that it is a “federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation” (and thereby solicits tax-deductible donations), the Secretary of State does not have records of a nonprofit corporation with this name … The FPPC, Ethics Commission, City Attorney and District Attorney should similarly target the relationship between this “nonprofit” and the No on Prop. D campaign, and force both the group and campaign to disclose how the group came up with such a large sum of monew to give to a local campaign.

SAM HODGSON

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