California official fined for pocketing campaign funds

Posted at 4:30 PM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-21 20:45:54-05

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A former Democratic California lawmaker was fined $150,000 Thursday after an audit found he spent political contributions on a vacation in Asia, personal plane tickets and remodeling his vacation home in Hawaii.

The Mercury News of San Jose reports that the Fair Political Practices Commission found Joe Canciamilla violated campaign finance laws at least 30 times, used $130,529 in campaign funds from 2011 to 2015, and falsified state filings to cover it up.

Canciamilla, 64, resigned as Contra Costa elections chief last month. He was the youngest public official in state history when he was elected at age 17 to the Pittsburg school board. He later served on the Pittsburg City Council and Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors before winning three terms in the state Assembly as Democrat in 2000.

He opened a campaign account for a county judge seat in 2011 but ultimately did not run. He was appointed clerk-recorder in 2013 and won election to the office twice.

An investigation by the commission’s enforcement staff found that Canciamilla repeatedly mixed campaign contributions with his personal funds starting in 2011. He spent $30,000 from campaign funds on a vacation to Asia and bought plane tickets for a trip to London and Washington, D.C. for him and his spouse and used campaign money to pay off credit card charges incurred from remodeling his house in Hawaii.

The commission’s enforcement staff recommended a maximum fine of $5,000 per count, or a total of $150,000 for 30 counts. Canciamilla agreed to the settlement earlier this month, which the commission formally approved Thursday.

Canciamilla’s lawyer Andy Rockas said in a statement that Canciamilla has paid back the disputed amounts and the fine, takes full responsibility for his actions and hopes the fines won’t severely overshadow his 46 years of public service.

The commission has also referred the matter to the county district attorney’s office, which is conducting a review and could bring criminal charges.