Jan Marx accused of breaking SLO campaign finance law

December 21, 2016
Jan Marx

Jan Marx

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

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.







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20 Comments

  1. Frederick1337 says:

    These are not the only laws that mayor Marx broke while mayor, I am sure of that, although I cannot prove it (yet). We can expect the Same political protection again and again however. Nothing will be done. $1800 is nothing for someone of her financial standing. Equal protection of law should include a financial ability rule that imposes higher fines on people with more monies, that way the “lesson” would be learned more equally throughout wealth class division. It is unfair to assess fines in any other way. This country has a very entitled wealthy class. Higher taxes for the rich and higher rates of fines is all that these rich people will understand in the age of neo-liberal casino capitalism of the last 40 years.

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
  2. r0y says:

    Uh, Josh? Did you not notice the (D) after Marx’s name? Nothing to see here, move along….

    In other words: expect a total pass, maybe, at worse, a gentle tap on the wrist.

    (16) 34 Total Votes - 25 up - 9 down
    • paragon says:

      Actually, there was no (D) after Marx’s name because the office of mayor is a non-partisan position. Also, Marx’s opponent, Harmon, is also a democrat, so how does that factor into your little conspiracy theory?

      (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
  3. slojustice says:

    Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

    (15) 33 Total Votes - 24 up - 9 down
    • Pete says:

      Maybe, but not for this. Lock her up for selling out the town by approving massive soul destroying development that does not benefit us in the least. And for approving sweetheart contracts with high level staff that cost us a fortune.

      (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  4. TaxMeAgain says:

    Lately, the Democratic trend is to break a series of laws and then lose the campaign. This is a refreshing new take on being politically corrupt.

    (22) 36 Total Votes - 29 up - 7 down
    • Pete says:

      Do you have any data to back up your statement?

      The city attorney just approved the complaint by Kevin Rice and levied fines against Marx and Cory Black. But Hillary has never been indicted or convicted of so much as jaywalking, are you just referring to our dirty local politicians and painting the party with a broad brush?

      We all know of major crimes by well known US Senators (Republicans) that did not result in any sanctions, at the election box or elsewhere. Remember the one caught soliciting young boys in the airport bathroom, nothing happened to him.

      I think maybe Dems are more moral; if their people (like Anthony Weiner of NY) are caught in any impropriety they are often cast out. If Repos do some bad deeds they are often rewarded with reelection. So it seems this discussion is actually painting the conservatives with negative vibes, not the progressives.

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  5. Pelican1 says:

    Is this the real definition of “Marxism?”

    (15) 25 Total Votes - 20 up - 5 down
  6. grayotter1 says:

    Let’s quit playing games with these shysters. If they break a campaign law they lose the election. Monetary fines and/or misdemeanor violations are not severe enough to stop bad politicians.

    (28) 34 Total Votes - 31 up - 3 down
  7. Rich in MB says:

    Hillary Gone….
    Mayor Marx Gone….
    Sales Tax increase Killed!

    What a Great Election!

    (30) 60 Total Votes - 45 up - 15 down

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