San Diego’s latest political scandal erupted this week with a federal complaint against two men suspected of funneling $500,000 in illegal campaign donations into several local elections between 2011 and 2013.

Social media consultant and ElectionMall founder Ravneet Singh and ex-detective Ernesto Encinas allegedly used shell companies, a straw donor and unreported campaign services to move the money from a foreign national, thought to be wealthy Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura.

But there are regulations in place for lobbyists and political action committees that are supposed to catch things like this. Stacey Fulhorst, executive director of the city’s ethics commission, knows a thing or two about ‘em. We invited her onto the podcast this week to brief us on the tough gig of reining in San Diego’s politicos. See some of the highlights from her interview below.

Ultimately, her team’s mission is to empower you.

“In San Diego, since the commission overhauled campaign laws back in 2003, we have had a paid-for-by disclosure required. Having said that, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve now supplemented those laws, because now that there are unlimited contributions going to independent groups, we want the public when they see an advertisement or hear an advertisement, to also receive information about the top funders to that group.”

Shockingly, lobbyists have gotten salty with the commission.

“The push-back the commission received was that people would be intimidated to have their name on a disclosure report, and the commission’s response to that was two-fold: One, city officials should not be doing anything that they would be concerned about the public knowing about, and No. 2, that it is a substantial difference if a lobbyist is able to meet with, say, a Council representative as opposed to a Council member. If you are obtaining access directly to an elected official, that is information that should be on a disclosure report for the public to access.”

Investigations and audits lend themselves to awkward run-ins.

“It is certainly a very realistic possibility that I could be making a presentation about the ethics commission’s budget while one or more members of the City Council are under investigation that no one knows about while they are in turn asking whether we really need to have an investigator, we really need an auditor and things of that nature … It’s just the nature of the beast.”

Download the rest of the episode below for more from Fulhorst.

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Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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