In response to a Register story that looked at Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s unusual use of a campaign fund, Spitzer on Monday pointed to public records that he says show he and his wife traveled to Maui in 2008 to attend a conference sponsored by the Pacific Policy Research Foundation.
Spitzer had previously declined several requests to answer detailed questions about the Hawaii trip and its relevance to his Central Committee campaign fund. He did not respond to another request Monday to discuss the connection.
In a text message sent Sunday after the article appeared, however, Spitzer took issue with the description of the Hawaii trip as a “vacation.”
“It was a public policy seminar for current and former legislators and locally elected officials,” he wrote. “By missing that (in public records) you gave an incomplete scenario … and you left (the) impression it was for personal travel.”
The 2008 conference featured discussions about energy in the climate change era, health care reform and jail diversion for mentally ill offenders, according to news reports at the time.
The Pacific Policy Research Foundation, which is based near Sacramento, left afternoons free for golf, tennis, snorkeling, cocktails and other leisure activities, according to news reports.
In the Sunday article, the Register quoted experts who said Spitzer’s increased fundraising and spending out of the Central Committee account is unusual but legal so long as spending is connected to his role with the committee.
Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies and the first general counsel to the Fair Political Practices Commission, said Monday that spending campaign money to travel to Hawaii for a conference is legal.
He said he doesn’t approve of using campaign money to pay for a spouse’s trip, but that’s legal too.
“Everything he did seems legal. It’s just a question of whether it’s appropriate,” Stern said.
Some lawmakers use campaign funds to cover the costs of the Hawaii function. Businesses that give money to the Pacific Policy Research Foundation also pay for dinners, drinks and activities. In Spitzer’s case, he spent about $9,000 from a fundraising account for the Republican Central Committee for Hawaii travel and dining.
The payments are detailed in campaign finance forms that Spitzer, a former member of the state Assembly, has filed as scheduled since he opened the committee in early 2008 with money from his Assembly account.
He was termed out of the Assembly after 2008 and had to donate his money to another campaign, a nonprofit or a political cause.
Spitzer put about $1 million in a campaign for Orange County District Attorney in 2008 that has since become his supervisor campaign, and he placed about $235,000 into his Central Committee account.
Central Committee accounts are rarely used in California politics and aren’t subject to fundraising limits that restrict Spitzer’s Board of Supervisors campaign to $1,900 per donor.
He has spent nearly $340,000 between 2008 and June 30, 2015.
Spitzer also has raised about $45,000 from companies and people that do business in Orange County, most of which have already given all they legally can to his supervisor campaign.
Contact the writer: [email protected] Twitter: @meghanncuniff.