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Did Andy Pugno Break State Law In Support Of Marriage Ban?

by: Robert Cruickshank

Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 14:00:00 PM PST


Note: I am the Public Policy Director for the Courage Campaign

The Courage Campaign's Rick Jacobs today filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission today against Andy Pugno, one of the key figures behind the effort to ban same-sex marriage in California.

The complaint alleges that Pugno misused public funds while on the staff of State Senator Pete Knight in the late 1990s to help the campaign to pass the so-called "Knight Initiative" - a California version of the Defense of Marriage Act banning same-sex marriage. This went to voters in November 2000 as Proposition 22 and was approved with 61% of the vote. This was struck down by the California Supreme Court in May 2008, and in turn Pugno and his allies in the leadership of the LDS and Catholic Churches put Prop 8 on the ballot to change the state constitution to ban marriage. The evidence suggests that not only was Pugno involved with those institutions involved in the planning and management of Prop 8 as we learned at the trial, but that their collaboration goes back into the late 1990s and may have violated state law.

Pugno is of course the general counsel to ProtectMarriage.com, and a candidate for the Republican nomination for the 5th District State Assembly seat. He is a key figure in the campaign strategy used for both Prop 22 and Prop 8, and for the legal defense of Prop 8 in both the California Supreme Court and in Judge Vaughn Walker's federal courtroom. As longtime Trial Trackers know, Pugno also played a key role in trying get the Courage Campaign Prop 8 Trial Tracker shut down by suing Courage Campaign over the logo we use at the site.

Here's what led to the filing of the complaint. On Wednesday investigative reporter Robert Salladay published an article on Pugno's involvement in the Prop 22 campaign while on the payroll of the California State Senate. Specifically, it was alleged that Pugno used public resources of the State Senate - phones, faxes, stationery - to vet the proposed initiative with Mormon leaders. Salladay included a letter Pugno wrote on February 26, 1998 to BYU law professor Lynn Wardle. The letter was on California State Senate letterhead and asked Wardle to review proposed ballot language with an eye toward ensuring it could pass at the ballot box. It was also reported that Pugno may have used public funds to travel to Arizona for a "strategic consultation" meeting with LDS leaders that same year.

That appears to be in violation of the Political Reform Act, which governs issues such as this. In fact, Salladay's article quoted FPPC staff on this very point:

As for Pugno using Senate letterhead for a political issue - and asking Wardle to use the government fax machine and phone lines - the law is fairly strict. One regulation does allow for "incidental" campaign use, but Roman Porter, executive director of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, said about cases like this in general: "The use of public funds for campaign purposes is unlawful."

Based on the letter and the other evidence reported, Rick Jacobs filed the official complaint against Pugno with the FPPC. He also wrote to Attorney General Jerry Brown seeking an investigation (see that letter here) and to the Secretary of the Senate, Greg Schmidt, seeking public disclosure of various documents related to Pugno's campaign work while on the staff of Senator Knight (see that letter here).

Here's what Rick Jacobs had to say about the filing:

The new and troubling disclosures appear to demonstrate willful disrespect for the laws and rules governing the conduct of public servants. If he broke California law, how can he expect to be elected to office to make California law? Andy Pugno needs to be investigated and any appropriate consequences levied for his actions.

We will keep everyone posted on what happens with the FPPC complaint and other requests for investigation and public disclosure we have filed.

Robert Cruickshank :: Did Andy Pugno Break State Law In Support Of Marriage Ban?
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