Jan Marx accused of breaking SLO campaign finance law

December 21, 2016
Jan Marx

Jan Marx


A campaign finance complaint was filed against former San Luis Obispo mayor Jan Marx over multiple violations of campaign contribution laws she helped put in place. And while allegedly breaking election finance rules, Marx lectured her opponent on accepting contributions from donors Marx deemed questionable.

On Wednesday, activist and government watchdog Kevin Rice filed a complaint against Marx and local Democratic political consultant Cory Black, alleging they knowingly violated the city of San Luis Obispo’s $300 contribution limit. In line with SLO election rules, Rice is asking that both Marx and Black be charged with misdemeanors and be fined a combined total of $1,800.

Black, who is the vice president of the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Party, personally donated $300 to Marx’s campaign on Oct. 3. On the same day, Black’s political consulting firm, Public Policy Solutions, also donated $300 to Marx’s campaign. Two days later, the political committee San Luis Obispo County for Better Government likewise gave $300 to Marx, according to Marx’s campaign finance reports.

Black is a principal officer and assistant treasurer of San Luis Obispo County for Better Government. He is the owner and chief executive officer of Public Policy Solutions, a company that works on political campaigns.

California campaign finance code states that contributions made by organizations controlled by a person count as donations from that individual. In the aggregate, Black donated $900 to Marx’s campaign, $600 more than the legal limit, Rice’s complaint states.

Rice alleges Marx and Black knew exactly what they were doing since the political consultant gave the then-incumbent mayor three separate contributions of exactly $300.

Cory Black

Cory Black

Having served multiple terms both as a councilwoman and mayor, Marx ran for office several times. While in office, she voted at least five times in favor city of campaign contribution limits.

Black has served as the treasurer for numerous political campaigns. He also provided consulting services to Marx’s 2012 mayoral campaign.

In last month’s election, now-Mayor Heidi Harmon defeated Marx by 47 votes. Marx led in early mail-in ballots, but Harmon surged as poll votes and late mail-in ballots were tallied.

“Marx could just as easily have won reelection by 46 votes as a direct result of the $600 in unlawful contributions she accepted and spent on her campaign,” Rice stated in the complaint. “Had that occurred, no remedy would be available to reverse an illicit election win.”

During the campaign, Marx attacked Harmon for receiving money from Rice. Marx was also quoted in the Tribune as saying, unlike Harmon, she is very assiduous about her campaign finances.

“Speaking personally, I make sure our treasurer and I are on the same page, so that I can accept or reject contributions that are made,” Marx was quoted in the Tribune article. “I am very assiduous about that issue.”

The quote was published the very same date Marx violated the city campaign finance ordinance, Rice says in his complaint.

San Luis Obispo City Attorney Christine Dietrick currently has 10 days to respond to Rice’s complaint. It is not the first time Dietrick has had to deal with a complaint of this nature.

In 2012, John Ashbaugh’s campaign for the San Luis Obispo City Council accepted a $200 check — the maximum allowable donation at the time — from County Supervisor Adam Hill. Hill also donated $84 worth of wine to Ashbaugh’s campaign.

In response, Dietrick fined Ashbaugh $252, or three times the amount of the excess donation. Rice argues the fine set a precedent, and Dietrick should now fine Marx and Black $1,800.

Rice also says it is clear that Marx and Black should be charged with misdemeanors.

“Any person who violates any provision of this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor,” according to SLO’s campaign finance ordinance.

Kevin Rice

Kevin Rice

However, Ashbaugh did not receive a misdemeanor charge. Ashbaugh, too, voted in favor of campaign contribution limits.

In addition to accusing Marx and Black of violating city campaign finance rules, Rice alleges they committed “campaign money laundering,” a violation of the California Political Reform Act. State election finance regulators explain campaign money laundering as using a different name to hide a person’s donations.

If Dietrick decides not to levy fines, Rice has the right to ask the court to fine Marx and Black, according to the city’s ordinance. If that were to occur, Rice would be eligible to receive half of all monies collected by the court.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Marx in a nutshell……Do as I say…not as I do.

One set of laws for us and another set of laws for the members of the Proletariat ruling class. They don’t work for us anymore. We work for them. We are just supposed to shut up and open our wallets and hand over our money.

She’s had xperience at this type of corrupt political behavior during the Measure J Against Dalidio a few years back. I believe some banker and the Copeland Brothers got fined over this and they protected the evil Jan Marx, since she was an attorney and the Brothers wanted her to run for Mayor so protected her reputation…lol

Start fining and or jailing these politicians that believe they are above the law or this stuff will continue. Getting tough is necessary because California politics are so dirty it will take decades to clean it up. One party rule and borders wide open for future democrats to invade our state will make California very difficult to uncover and correct all of the corruption. But we have to try and starting with Marx seems to me to be a good place to start.

Good job. These things actually go on all of the time. Marx stated that she knew exactly what she was doing. I think that is a correct statement on her behalf but the only problem is that she was doing it wrong and got caught. And then there is Cory Black, everyone knows how he operates. If you want to have a dirty campaign he’s the one.

Marx should have went to prison (along with the Copelands, Booker and others) years ago with her shenanigans towards Ernie Dalidio.

Nice job Kevin.

Yeah Kevin. While Kevin is monitoring how well (usually not) our government is working most of us are just fiddling around. Good for him to discover more hypocrisy in local affairs.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

This is stunning news, and calls into question the character and judgement of a longtime SLO politician. The fact that she voted for the very measures she is now accused of violating speaks to very corrupt behavior, and where there is smoke there is fire.

I agree with Mr. Rice that former Mayor Marx ought to be prosecuted for these alleged crimes, and also should certainly be fined.

Just saying,

Mr. Josey Wales

If there is no investigation and/or prosecution if warranted, that would speak volumes — all negative, about the City of SLO. It would have a grave, long-term impact on the city.