Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher said he closed his state campaign account once he decided to run for San Diego mayor. He didn’t need it because he wasn’t a candidate for state office anymore, he said.
“We closed the Assembly committee completely,” Fletcher said last month.
But Fletcher didn’t close the committee. It remained open until last week. And he continued to collect $34,700 into the account after his mayoral campaign began, recently released campaign finance disclosures show.
Also, Fletcher spent money from the account on a campaign staffer, literature and a donor list. The expenditures raise questions about his compliance with election rules that prohibit spending money from one campaign account on a different election unless the money is formally transferred.
Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies watchdog group, said Fletcher’s spending should concern the city’s Ethics Commission, which enforces campaign finances rules.
“If I were at the Ethics Commission, I would be raising some questions,” Stern said.
After he declared he was running for mayor, Fletcher received corporate donations from Disney, Hewlett-Packard, Bank of America and Anheuser Busch among other companies. Those companies can’t give him money for his mayoral campaign because the city’s rules prohibit corporate donations.
Fletcher said in an interview that he didn’t know the state committee had remained open. All the contributions received, Fletcher said, had been pledged prior to his June 5 mayoral announcement. He said he didn’t solicit any money or rack up any bills after that.
His corporate donors, Fletcher said, shouldn’t expect to receive special treatment if he’s elected mayor.
“If you contribute to my campaign for mayor, if you contribute to my campaign for the Assembly, if you contribute to anything I’m running for, you’re getting an investment in good government,” Fletcher said. “A donor is subscribing to what I believe. I’m not subscribing to what they believe.”
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Fletcher spent more than $230,000 in the past six months through his state committee. His expenditures include $33,765 to a campaign finance director who Fletcher said now works on his mayoral campaign. He also spent $1,027 for the donor list of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.
Fletcher said politicians continually update lists of potential donors. Spending for Whitman’s donor list was justified, he said, because it would have helped him had he decided to run for re-election to the Assembly instead of for mayor.
“As you go on in life, if somebody makes a contribution to you, they go on your list,” he said. “If you run for another office, it’s still your list.”
Fletcher paid consultant salaries, travel reimbursements or expense reimbursements for at least nine current or former members of his Assembly staff out of the state account. His Assembly staffers volunteer any campaign work and they’re entitled to reimbursements if they spent any money, he said. Last month, Fletcher faced criticism for hiring his campaign spokeswoman, Amy Thoma, onto the state payroll. Thoma is still handling media calls outside of business hours and during lunchtime.
Fletcher’s expenditures also include flights in June and July, after he announced for mayor. Thoma said those flights were purchased in April or May. The campaign was looking to see if a separate account could reimburse those costs, she added.
Liam Dillon is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He covers San Diego City Hall and big buildings. What should he write about next?
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