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City Ethics Commission Fines San Diego Political Group $7,500 For Violations

A $7,500 fine was levied against a group that funded automated calls during last year's mayoral campaign, asking in part whether a candidate potentially being San Diego's first openly gay mayor would affect the recipient's vote, because its principal officers and address were not disclosed and expenditure records were not maintained, the city's Ethics Commission announced Friday.

According to the commission, the principal officers of "Conservatives for Gay Rights Supporting Carl DeMaio for Mayor 2012 with Major Funding Provided by the Charles McHaffie Trust" were Juan Boyce, Jesus Cardenas and Cynara Velazquez.

A form filed with the city identified only Boyce.

The committee's other organizers and financial backer were supporters of Bob Filner, DeMaio's opponent in last year's mayoral race, a San Diego newspaper reported.

"The failure to provide accurate and complete information about the individuals responsible for operating the committee and determining its campaign strategy deprived the voters of important information before the November 2012 general election," Ethics Commission executive director Stacey Fulhorst said. "The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the committee disclosed an address for a 'virtual office' instead of an actual street address as required by law, effectively preventing anyone from locating the individuals in charge."

Ethics Commission Chair William Howatt, Jr., said that the maximum $5,000 fine for failing to disclose all principal officers was appropriate in light of the factors, and that the individuals involved had "no credible explanation for omitting this important information from the committee's disclosures."

According to the Ethics Commission, the committee also failed to maintain records of the amount of mailers produced or number of automated calls made by a research company.

The commission provided copies of the mailers, and of the call's script, in which voters were first asked which candidate they would choose. A Filner response was met with "Thank you for supporting Bob Filner. Conservatives for Gay Rights In Support of Carl DeMaio for Mayor 2012, with major funding provided by the Charles McHaffie Trust."

A DeMaio response was followed by five questions regarding endorsements, pension benefits and his advocacy on small business growth. Two questions referenced DeMaio's homosexuality, including "If you knew that Carl DeMaio would be the the first openly gay mayor of a big city, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for Carl DeMaio, or does this fact make no difference?"

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, elected in 2009, is considered to be the first openly gay big-city mayor in the United States.

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