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Political Committee Funds: Not for Love Interests or Business Startups

A word to the wise: Just when you thought "silly season" ended with the election, it did not.

Last week, California's political watchdog agency imposed two fines on treasurers of political committees for misuse of funds. In the first case the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) fined a treasurer of a committee formed to support the decriminalization of prostitution for loaning dancer at a strip club money. Strangely enough (insert sarcasm here), a treasurer of a political committee cannot use committee's funds to make loans to love interests.

The loan was apparently to pay expenses related to a family law case and plastic surgery. Again, oddly enough, those expenses do not count as proper expenses for the political committee formed to decriminalize prostitution.

The FPPC acted quickly and fined Luke Briet almost $10,000. The apparent loan of $3,000 has not been repaid.

But the fun doesn't stop there. The FPPC also fined another treasurer, Michael Gunter, of a different political committee. Gunter's violation was based on using $10,000 of the committee's funds to start his own business. He was the treasurer for the Californians for Privacy Committee -- I'm guessing he would have preferred to keep many of his activities private (ba-dum ching!).

None of these violations rise to the level of now-infamous campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee. She, thanks in large part to the investigation and subsequent actions by the FPPC, was recently sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay $10.5 million in restitution to her victims.

In the meantime, campaign treasurers would be wise to take note and use committee funds for statutorily-defined proper purposes only.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government every Monday. She is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. Read more of her posts here.

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