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FPPC Releasing No Information in Alameda County Dems Investigation

Citing an ongoing investigation, the California Fair Political Practices Commission has refused to release any records pertaining to an investigation of the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee.

Last week, the Commission denied my public records request, saying that all records related to the issue are sensitive to the investigation.

Committee member Margarita Lacabe said that Commission investigators called her in December of last year, after she had written on her blog that the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee was not following campaign finance laws.

She had written: I’m a member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC) and I was appalled to find out that current policy and practice is for the ACDCC to take financial contributions from PACs and others earmarked to help a specific candidate that has been endorsed by the ACDCC. The party uses that money to send out a mailer on behalf of the candidate in question. The mailer will say “paid for the ACDCC”, and there will be no mention of who is actually funding it.

After speaking with her, the Commission opened the investigation.

Lacabe denies, as some have suggested, that she filed a written complaint with the commission.

"Had I filed a complaint against my own committee, they would have assured anonymity, but they found the information on the blog, so they couldn't keep my name private. I've been told that people in Sacramento read these blogs," she said.

"Had I called the FPPC, I would have owned up to it. I didn't because I thought this was transparency issue within the committee, not a legal issue."

She asserts that she has no active role in the investigation.

In February, Commission investigators told her they would be unable to keep her name private.

Now, the Democratic Central Committee has hired an attorney to defend itself in the FPPC investigation, some committee members want to censure her, and at least one member anonymously called her "poisonous" in news stories on the investigation.

"I think disruptive is a better term than poisonous," she said. "I am disruptive. I think a lot of what's happening with the structure of the committee is hurtful to the party. It may sound naive, but I believe the party could stand for progressive candidates, and I don't believe that candidates should be endorsed based on who their campaign manager is or who gives them financial support and I have spoken loudly about this issue where other people are afraid to do so. Afraid to speak against those elements of the party who benefit from the power they have acquired."

Lacabe explained that she believes in recent years that there have been conflicts of interest in the form of committee members that have interests in campaign consulting agencies that take on Alameda County Democratic candidates.

"In March, Robin Torello, the committee chair, asked the committee to approve the hiring of the lawyer, saying it would be a short investigation. The executive committee is now preoccupied with the investigation, because they assured the rest of the committee that everything they were doing was illegal," Lacabe told me.

Officials from the Democratic Central Committee did not respond to an email request for comment.

"The committee as a whole will be impacted because the lawyer will have to be paid for, no matter the outcome of the investigation, and we operate on a shoestring budget. That's the fault, not of me writing about it, but the committee doing things that may be illegal - we should not be doing anything that comes close to being illegal," Lacabe said.

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