California's top financial officer, whose responsibility includes prodding other government entities to submit their financial reports on time, has been fined for missing seven campaign reports of her own.
State Controller Betty Yee has been fined $2,082 after she and her campaign failed to file six 24-hour reports and one $5,000 report – in violation of Government Code Sections 84203 and 85309 – during her successful 2014 run for office, according to the non-partisan Fair Political Practices Commission.
The FPPC, created in 1974 in the shadow of the Watergate scandal, discovered the violations, which occurred between March and November 2014, during a routine audit by its enforcement division, Jay Wierenga, the commission's director of communications, told the Northern California Record.
"In essence, what our enforcement division found were very relatively minor, relatively technical violations," Wierenga said. "Ms. Yee, her committee and the treasurer for that committee...took responsibility immediately, they corrected the problem."
Thanks to their cooperation, in addition to the fact the reporting oversights "were lower-level, technical violations," he said, Yee and her campaign qualified for the commission's "streamline program," which was put in place to resolve such minor matters "quickly and efficiently and to the satisfaction of everyone involved so that our enforcement division can concentrate their efforts on investigating more egregious violations."
Candidates running for public office in the Golden State must report contributions of $1,000 or more within a 24-hour period, during the 90 days prior to the election.
The six 24-hour reports Yee’s campaign failed to file were reportedly for contributions ranging from $2,000 to $10,800, totaling $36,500.
Investigators from the FPPC said no evidence was found to suggest there was any intent to conceal the contributions.
In a written statement, Yee's campaign treasurer, Jane Leiderman of Leiderman and Associates in Los Angeles, took the blame for the mistakes, absolved Yee of any wrongdoing and agreed to pay the fine. She said she regretted any "reputational harm this matter may have caused.”
Yee's missed reporting, and how they were resolved, was "part of what I think is important for Californians to see – even in very minor violations, it's good to see public officials accept responsibility and complying with the law as quickly as possible...that is a good thing," said Wierenga.
"Our main focus here is not necessarily to go out and capture and punish the wrongdoers, although that is something we will and always do," he said. "Our main goal is to have people know the law, understand the law, follow the law and comply with the law and the more people can do that, the more we hopefully have trust in the system" and "people can believe in the system."
Since 2011, Leiderman has been named in five FPPC warning letters linked to other cases and three separate stipulation agreements.
Yee ran to become controller after serving two terms on the state's Board of Equalization. She narrowly beat California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez in the June primary and then defeated Fresno's Mayor Ashley Swearengin in the general election.