Did Isadore Hall Break Campaign Finance Laws?

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to present this guest post by our colleague Derek Fields.

Isadore Hall may be in even more trouble. A report to the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleges that Hall misused campaign funds. It alleges that Hall used money designated for his state senate office instead for his current campaign for the US House of Representatives. The complaint says Hall is in violation of California Government Code § 89510(b). We also believe he could be in violation of 11 CFR 110.8(d) on the federal side of things.

Earlier we told you about Isadore Hall’s abuse of his political power for personal reasons. Hall lived without paying rent in a housing project that he funded with taxpayer money. He awarded his brother, a convicted child molester working for the State of California, with a certificate for exemplary service right after his brother cost taxpayers money in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

CrossFit first noticed Hall when he was chairman of the California State Senate’s Health Committee. Hall abstained from voting on a bill that would have required a warning label on sugar-sweetened beverages, and thus blocked the bill from progressing. Hall has numerous ties to the soda, alcohol and tobacco industries. He dodged meetings about the bill and refused at least four times to take a stance on the warning label. He is now running to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes Compton and some surrounding areas, in the United States House of Representatives.

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Did Isadore Hall spend campaign funds illegally, or did he really need to have several meetings in Shelly’s Back Room in Washington DC, pictured above, as part of his California State Senator duties?

We contacted the California Fair Political Practices Commission and asked for any complaints against Hall. There were a handful of closed cases from previous years, but one was still an open case. It was filed on March 7 of this year. That complaint accused Hall of self-dealing with the Alameda Court Housing Project he lived in, as well as of illegally using campaign funds.

California Government Code § 89510(b) says,

“All contributions deposited into the campaign account shall be deemed to be held in trust for expenses associated with the election of the candidate or for expenses associated with holding office.”

We investigated California state law and found that “election” is defined as “any primary, general, special or recall election held in this state,” according to California Government Code 82022. It’s apparently illegal to use funds for elections outside the state of California if they were donated to and held by a committee set up for a California election. The complaint only accuses Hall of violating California law, but we looked into federal campaign laws too. This brochure from the Federal Election Commission lays out 11 CFR 110.8(d) simply on page 6, where it states,

“Under FEC regulations, a candidate’s federal campaign committee may not accept funds or assets transferred from a committee established by the same candidate for a nonfederal election campaign.”

Therefore, if Senator Hall used funds from his California State Senate committee to fund his campaign for federal office, then he may have violated both state and federal law.

Here you can see Campaign Statement Form 460, which Hall submitted for the first half of 2015. This form contains all the information on contributions, loans and expenses related to Hall’s tenure as a state senator. There are several expenses for trips to Washington, DC, as well as fundraisers and meetings that took place in DC. That could suggest that the state committee might have been paying for expenses related to his campaign for federal office.

Form 460 shows a couple of flights from United Airlines, as well as flights from Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines and Virgin America, which all brought Hall from California to DC during the first half of 2015. It also documents several meetings at Shelly’s Back Room, which appears to be some kind of restaurant and cigar shop combo in DC, and a fundraiser at DC’s Capital Grille.

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Did Isadore Hall really have this many expenses in Washington DC that somehow related to his job as a California State Senator?

To see Hall’s federal campaign expenses, go to http://www.fec.gov/, search for Isadore Hall, and click on “Operating Expenditures.” You will see that Hall’s federal committee didn’t start paying for travel to DC until the latter half of 2015. He registered his candidacy for the US House of Representatives on February 24, 2015. He was also already paying for certain other federal campaign expenses through his federal committee during the first half of 2015, so it’s clear his federal campaign had started during that time. Yet that’s the same time period that his state committee’s Form 460 shows several flights to Washington, DC.

The first flight in Hall’s federal election filings has a “payment date” of August 14, 2015. Yet the flyer below shows that Hall campaigned for federal office in DC on June 22, 2015. Did Hall drive to DC from Los Angeles for that event (even then he’d have to file his expenses for gas), or did he illegally pay for a flight to DC out of California State Senate Seat committee funds? To give Hall the benefit of the doubt, we contacted the Federal Election Commission to ask if it was possible that a flight with a payment date of August 14, 2015 could have been taken months earlier but somehow dated later. Paraphrasing the FEC “specialist” we talked to, you usually have to pay for flights before you take them, so the flights probably did not take place before the August 14, 2015 date.

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Hall campaigned for federal office in Washington DC during the time period that his California committee was paying for flights to DC, well before the date of the first flight in his federal records.

It is our understanding that the law allows for a very wide array of expenditures. Based on precedent, Hall easily claim that all of his DC expenditures were somehow related to his job as a California State Senator. However, the flyer above indicates that Hall campaigned for federal office in DC between February 2015 and July 2015. Hall’s federal campaign committee didn’t file any flight expenses until August 14, 2015. Meanwhile, Hall’s State Senate campaign committee paid for several flights to DC between January 1, 2015 and June 30, 2015.

Improper use of campaign funds adds to Hall’s perceived pattern of dishonesty and abuse of power. He may get off again this time. Still, the people of California’s 44th Congressional District deserve an honest candidate who upholds the law rather than one who pushes its boundaries.

 

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