I don’t know why the press has been so slow in picking up this story. Last Thursday attorney Mark Rosen, at the behest of a Newport Beach resident Dick Weaver, sent a letter to the District Attorney as well as the City Attorney filing a complaint against candidate Lee Lowrey requesting that action be taken, or a special prosecutor be appointed, because of Lowrey’s violation of the Newport Beach campaign contribution law.
Lowrey violated the contribution limits by accepting a $250 donation on June 30th from SCCBT, and then an additional $1,000 contribution on September 13th from the same entity. This combined contribution totals $1,250 which is $150 over the allowable limit for a single contribution.
The September 13th contribution identifies SCCBT as Southern California Coalition of Businesses and Taxpayers. Documentation of these two contributions is identified on both the city and Secretary of State websites. In fact, Lowrey is the second largest recipient of SCCBT’s largesse in this election cycle.
Newport Beach has strong penalties and remedies for campaign contribution violations. Section 1.25.030 of election code states that this violation is a misdemeanor. Section 1.25.040(C) states that the City Attorney shall have the power to enforce provisions of the Political Reform Act. This section also states that if the City Attorney is not authorized (by the city council) to enforce these provisions, the District Attorney shall function as the criminal prosecutor. The City Council does have the authority to appoint a special prosecutor to enforce civil penalties.
Tomorrow evening the City Council will meet to consider the complaint against Lowery. The Council will consider the appointment of a special prosecutor. With the current council majority being Team Newport, and with their endorsement of Lowrey, what do you think the chances are of their voting Tuesday night to appoint a special prosecutor?
Mr. Weaver is demanding that either the City Attorney or the District Attorney investigate this illegal campaign action, and that Mr. Lowrey be prosecuted, and that, if he should be elected, that he be removed from office upon conviction.
The plot thickens…….
In the past, the City Attorney has determined that he does not have the authority to enforce the city’s campaign contribution laws, so the appointment of a special prosecutor would be the correct next step. However, given the fact that Lowrey is a Team Newport candidate, the Council majority may not elect to appoint a special prosecutor which dumps this case in the lap of the District Attorney.
One of Lowrey’s contributors is Mike Schroder who is the district attorney’s main political advisors. If the case ends up in the District Attorney’s lap, and Schroder advises the District Attorney on this case, are we looking at a conflict of interest issue?
The contribution by SCCBT that triggered the complaint by Mr. Weaver gave $17,000 in two October, 2014 transactions to Residents for Reform (Bob McCaffrey/Dave Ellis) to support the election of Team Newport. So the question out there is: Who gave the money to the SCCBT to give to Lowrey? Major recent Newport Beach donors include:
CO Investments $10,000
Villa San Clemente $10,000
Steve Baric $2,500
Baric is the most logical donor. He is the lobbyist for Southside Towing who was recently awarded the lucrative city contract for towing despite the fact that the Newport Beach Police Department ranked Southside last because of their ability to properly care for vehicles that were evidence in crimes.
Baric is also the political lawyer for Duffield, Muldoon, and Peotter.
Baric is also Muldoon’s former employer!
If Baric is the one laundering money to Lowrey through the SCCBT, it is even more of a problem since Baric gave Lowrey a $900 contribution to his campaign fund on September 13, 2016. Of course it could be someone else; we don’t know who CO Investments is. Herein lies one of the problems with city contribution laws, and the need for reform. Contributors need to be identified!
So, if the Council tomorrow night fails to appoint a special prosecutor, questions of political corruption, favoritism, and lawlessness are sure to result. If Muldoon, Peotter and Duffield participate in the decision of whether or not to appoint a special prosecutor, questions of conflict of interest arise that will need to be referred to the FPPC.
The above facts clearly point to the political corruption that has been taking place in our city for the past two years, and also tell the story to voters in a way they can understand in time to influence the election results.