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HMG-CN Staff Report
A HMG-CN expose on Commerce Mayor pro tem Tina Baca Del Rio, exclusively published in May of 2015, has resulted in California’s Fair Political Practices Commission levying a record $104,000 fine on the embattled politican.
Baca Del Rio’s penalty is $64,000 more than the $40,000 fine levied in 2011 on former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and is the largest ever against a local official.
HMG-CN Publisher Brian Hews, author of the expose commented,”I am glad the truth finally came out on Baca Del Rio’s Political Reform Act violations. Ever since we published the article, she denied everything and proceeded to brand HMG-CN as ‘liars and yellow journalists’ during every council meeting.”
The number of violations exactly coincided with the number of violations outlined in the May article by HMG-CN.
This is the second time Baca Del Rio has violated campaign finance laws, she was fined $26,000 for campaign finance irregularities in 2011.
In April 2011, Baca Del Rio and her campaign committee, Friends of Tina Baca Del Rio, was charged with seven counts of violating campaign finance laws that occurred between 2007 and 2009.
Baca Del Rio was recalled from the Commerce City Council in November of 2008, but was surprisingly re-elected in 2009.
Many residents cited the heavy financial support from Commerce based businesses Justman Packaging and Steve Craig, the owner of Citadel Outlets and Craig Realty Group, as reasons she won back the council seat.
They also tell HMG-CN that Craig helped Baca Del Rio pay the $26,000 fine by holding a fundraiser for her.
Four of the violations were related to Campaign Filing and Disclosure, fourteen were related to Late Contribution Report violations, two indicated she did not pay the annual fee, and most egregious, four violations indicated that Baca Del Rio used campaign funds for her own personal use.
The campaign filing and disclosure violations occurred between January 1, 2011 and July 31, 2013.
Baca Del Rio failed to timely file all four reports during that period and also failed to properly disclose required contributions and expenditures on every campaign statement.
Baca Del Rio was also charged with 14 violations involving late contribution reports.
The total contributions not correctly reported came from some well-known supporters of Baca Del Rio, and occurred between 2011 and 2013 amounting to $22,000.
$1,000 was donated by Commerce based Justman Packaging and Display. Justman has operated in a building owned by the Commerce for the past five with no rent increase, costing the City over $200,000.
Citadel Outlet Mall Owner Steve Craig, a huge benefactor of Baca Del Rio who allegedly paid off her last fine from the FPPC by throwing a fundraiser, donated $1,000.
Brian Dror and Tabatha Dror, who occasionally work with Craig, each donated $1,000, as did David Iskowitz.
Failing to file the late contribution reports is significant given that the FPPC, in their April 2011 finding that Baca Del Rio violated the Act said, “Baca Del Rio withheld the information to win her Commerce Council seat. This failure deprived the public of important information about Baca Del Rio’s contributors and financial activity in connection with Baca Del Rio’s defense of a recall in November 2008 and in connection with her reelection in March 2009.”
The four violations classified under Personal Use could garner the maximum fine allowable, $20,000, as the FPPC found that Baca Del Rio transferred $9,400 from her committee to her personal bank account.
In early 2011, she transferred $5,400 into her personal bank account in seven separate transactions, six months later she transferred over $2,700, once again into her personal bank account.
In late 2014, Baca Del Rio paid herself $441 out of her campaign funds, three weeks later she gave herself another $960.
Calls and emails into Baca Del Rio went unreturned.
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