While the secretary of state and the FPPC monitor expenditures for statewide elections, here in San Francisco that job solely falls to the Ethics Commission. And Oliver Luby, the commission's fines collections officer, said that if a big-time donor opted to skip out on its local Ethics Commission filings -- as the Mormon Church did on the statewide level until pressure was applied -- "there would be no repercussions."
Luby has groused about this before -- last year he wrote an op-ed in the Chronicle
about how his office does not aggressively pursue major donors who shirk their filings. But the ongoing saga of the Mormon Church's disclosure -- we're going to be calling this one the "Oh, That
$190,000!" filing -- make it hard to ignore Luby's claim that San Francisco is giving its own well-heeled delinquents a free pass.
Major donors "are making late filings and there are no repercussions, and some people are not filing at all -- and we can tell. And we are not making any attempt [to pressure them into filing]," said Luby, who added that his Chronicle
article has has not altered office policy at all (so much for the power of the press).
Luby said that it's often as easy as cross-checking a donor's reported contributions with the donations reported by recipient committees to catch people or organizations failing to make major disclosures. And yet, he alleges, there is no follow-through from his office; while small-time donors giving 100 bucks may be run through the ringer, those giving far, far more are treated with kid gloves. If the Mormon Church was a local committee, he claims, there never would have been any pressure to force them to disclose their contributions.
An e-mail to Ethics Committee Executive Director John St. Croix has not yet been returned.
Joe Lynn is a former Ethics Commissioner and frequent critic of the commission. He said the EC has developed a "culture of 'No We Can't Do It'" more befitting of the days when it had a quarter of the staffers it now possesses.
"It's pretty clear to me they don't go after major donors but do go after small [recipient committees]," he said. "They continue to have their priorities screwed up."