Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Liquor store owners agree to $6,000 ethics fine in Filner hit piece case
Group run by outspoken Chaldean leader favoring Nathan Fletcher admits failing to fully identify itself and making late filings during last year's race for mayor
As reported here last May 29, the Neighborhood Market Association, a group representing various liquor stores and convenience markets around the county, unleashed a barrage of hit pieces against then-congressman Bob Filner, who was running for mayor.
One of the market association's direct mail pieces against Filner, featuring two unflattering photos of the Democrat, calls the congressman a "bully" and refers to media coverage of an "obscenity-laden" outburst the mail piece says he had.
Another mailer, containing a side shot Filner's face and a grainy photo of the congressman in front of the Capitol, calls him "out of touch" and suggests he did favors for campaign contributors. Both pieces contained a line saying they were paid for by a committee called "California for Small Business, sponsored by the Neighborhood Market Association."
Reached at the time by phone, the association's manager Mark Arabo - an outspoken Chaldean Christian leader who earlier had met with president Barack Obama in the White House to discuss ethnic cleansing in Iraq against religious minorities there - said the group was backing self-styled independent Assemblyman and former Republican Nathan Fletcher over Filner because the latter was "bad for small business."
Arabo added that the retailers, who had paid a total of $45,597 to a Sacramento influence peddling outfit to lobby 17 Assembly bills and six Senate bills, were also upset by what they perceived as Filner's lack of support for a plan by GOP then-mayor Jerry Sanders to expand the downtown convention center.
As it turns out, the group's anti-Filner zeal wasn't matched by its political disclosure prowess, as evidenced by a stipulated agreement reached last week with the city's ethics commission.
According to the document, posted online April 11 by the commission, the market association agreed to pay a $6,000 penalty for failing to fully and timely reveal that it was behind the hit pieces and so-called robocalls attacking Filner and the amount of money it had spent against him:
On May 27, 2012, Respondents made independent expenditures to oppose the mayoral candidacy of Bob Filner in the form of “direct mail design and concepts, web design, consulting, and online advertising” totaling $18,000.
Although Respondents were required to file a Form 496 with the City Clerk disclosing these independent expenditures on May 28, 2012, Respondents did not do so until June 7, 2012, at which time they incorrectly reported that the expenditures were made on June 5, 2012.
At the request of the Ethics Commission, Respondents filed an amended Form 496 with the City Clerk on October 25, 2012, correcting the date of the expenditures to May 27, 2012.
On May 29, 2012, Respondents made additional independent expenditures to oppose the mayoral candidacy of Bob Filner in the form of “robo canvass, email blast, robocalls” totaling $10,000.
Although Respondents were required to file a Form 496 with the City Clerk disclosing these independent expenditures on May 30, 2012, Respondents did not do so until June 6, 2012, at which time they incorrectly reported that the expenditures were made on June 4, 2012.
Respondents have not yet filed an amended Form 496 with the City Clerk to correct the date of these expenditures.
Respondents were required to provide the following disclosure during the recorded call: “paid for by California for Small Business sponsored by Neighborhood Market Association.” The Commission’s investigation reveals that the “paid for by” disclosure provided during the recorded call did not include the full name of the Committee as required by ECCO.
In particular, the disclosure indicated that the call was paid for California for Small Business but did not identify NMA as the Committee’s sponsor.
It isn't the first time the association has had to fess up and pay a substantial fine for its campaign reporting lapses.
Back in 2010, the group agreed to fork over $14,000 in penalties for similar disclosure issues involving its role in an attempt to stop a booze ban at San Diego beaches.
More like this:
- Liquor-store owners get a pass on late report — June 2, 2014
- Neighborhood Market Association gives $100,000 to pro-Fletcher campaign committee — Oct. 24, 2013
- Teachers union takes on GOP Lincoln Club in San Diego city council race — May 3, 2013
- Liquor Store Group Run by Outspoken Chaldean Leader Mails Hit Pieces Against Filner — May 29, 2012
- Booze Merchants Association Gives Big to Fletcher Mayoral Campaign — May 24, 2012