Campaign source puzzling
Despite an amended campaign finance statement filed by Nevada County Citizens for Responsible Government Tuesday, the source of a $28,258.25 contribution split between the Drew Bedwell and Robin Sutherland campaigns remains murky.
“I think that whenever you conceal the source of almost a $30,000 donation in a itty-bitty county like Nevada County, you’ve got something to hide,” said Paul Matson, campaign manager for District 3 Supervisorial incumbent Bruce Conklin.
It’s an injustice to the voters, Matson said, to deny them the right to know the true source of the money and exactly who signed the check.
“Twenty-eight thousand dollars, that’s nothing,” said Bill Weismann, president of Citizens For Property Rights in Nevada County. “They’re just whining because they lost.”
Weismann stressed that his group is a non-profit organization and cannot give money to candidates.
Conklin claimed the $28,000-plus doesn’t account for all the money spent on the Sutherland and Bedwell campaigns in the few weeks prior to election day.
“This is not the only independent expenditure,” Conklin said. “The amount given to the campaigns goes beyond the $28,000. There were mailers and other independent expenditures.”
When a complaint involving the matter was filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission in October, Bedwell and Sutherland denied, in an earlier interview, any wrongdoing and maintained that they reported all contributions required by law.
In addition to the $28,000-plus, NCCRG made independent expenditures to the Bedwell and Sutherland campaigns totalling $40,000 for signs and brochures, according to campaign finance statements filed with the county in October.
Conklin claimed the money contributed to the Bedwell campaign may very well have affected the outcome of the tight District 3 race in which Bedwell out-tallied Conklin by 19 votes.
“Any small thing can change the outcome when you’re talking 19 votes,” Conklin said. “And this is not a small thing – it’s a large thing.”
Conklin said there’s no way for the public to trace the real source of the money.
“And that’s the point,” he added.
While Conklin said the NCCRG political action committee isn’t making it easy for anyone to decipher the true source of the funds, he pointed to the committee’s treasurer, Robert Ingram, a forester with Sierra Pacific Industries, as a place to start unraveling the money trail.
“One thing we know for sure is that Robert is an employee of SPI,” Conklin said. “I don’t know if the money came from SPI, but he certainly works for them.”
“I’ve got nothing to do with it and neither does Sierra Pacific Industries,” said SPI district manager Tim Feller Friday.
“We (NCCRG) filed the amendment,” said Ingram Friday. He declined to comment further.
The $28,258.25 contribution was made to the Nevada County Citizens for Responsible Government political action committee by another entity listed as NCCRG, Inc, according to campaign financial disclosure statements filed in October.
According to the amendment filed Tuesday, NCCRG, Inc., is listed as Nevada County Citizens for Responsible Growth, Inc. That committee has been terminated, according to records from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Political action committees that are terminated cannot raise or spend money, Shad Balch, spokesman for the secretary of state, said Friday.
“If they are contributing with that name, they have to file a statement of organization so they can become active again,” he said.
In the October filing, the address listed for NCCRG, Inc., traced back to the address of Dean Deniz of Nevada City.
But, the address listed for the entity in Tuesday’s filing can be traced to the Grass Valley home address of Kirk Pharis.
Pharis could not be reached for comment Friday.
October’s disclosure of the $28,258.25 contribution from NCCRG, Inc., to Nevada County Citizens for Responsible Government prompted the San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association to file a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission.
The San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association was formed in 1977, “to monitor issues that impact the quality of life on San Juan Ridge,” according to President Gary Parsons. Parson supported Supervisor Izzy Martin, who lost to Sutherland.
The complaint filed in October alleged that the Bedwell and Sutherland campaigns violated election law by failing to disclose campaign contributions exceeding $100.
But former NCCRG assistant treasurer Kelly Lawler said at the time that the candidates were not required to disclose those monies because they were independent expenditures made by the political action committee.
by Kevin Wiser
and Kerana Todorov
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