Monday, September 21, 2015
FPPC Fines Judge Kreep $6,000 for Election Law Violations
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Fair Political Practices Commission has fined San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep $6,000 for violation of campaign finance laws.
In an enforcement decision issued Thursday, the commission approved a stipulation in which Kreep admitted that he spent more than $40,000 from his personal bank account, rather than his campaign account, during his successful 2012 campaign for the bench. He also admitted failing to disclose more than $8,000 in campaign expenses.
Kreep’s victory over veteran prosecutor Garland Peed in that election drew national attention because of his history as a conservative activist who challenged the constitutionality of Barack Obama’s presidency by claiming he is not a “natural born citizen” as required by the Constitution.
The campaign finance charge is one of a number of controversies he has had since the election. He was transferred out of criminal court in 2013, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, after prosecutors said they would blanket-affidavit him.
The newspaper said the city attorney objected to the judge’s unwillingness to follow a number of traditional practices, such as ordering defendants to waive search-and-seizure protections as a condition of probation, and that he was considered ill-tempered by some lawyers.
The Union-Tribune also suggested he may be disciplined by the Commission on Judicial Performance, which does not comment on possible pending investigations. A review of FPPC records by the newspaper revealed that the commission has fined 18 state court judges for violations of campaign finance rules, with all but two being fined less than Kreep.
In 2006, the FPPC fined Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Diana Hall $15,000 for falsely reporting that $20,000 in campaign donations were her own funds. The commission found that the money actually came from her then-domestic partner.
Later that year, the CJP ordered Hall’s removal from the bench, with the campaign violations playing a part in the case. The CJP rejected Hall’s claim that her responsibility for the elections law violation was mitigated by the fact that she was not aware of the specific requirements of the Political Reform Act.
The CJP, like the three special masters who heard evidence in the case, said the judge’s claim of ignorance of the law was “specious.” And if Hall, as an incumbent judge, truly did not know and did not research the laws governing her conduct as a candidate for re-election, that was an aggravating, not a mitigating, factor, the commission said.
“Public confidence in the judiciary is seriously impacted when the public learns a judge, one who is entrusted to apply the rule of law, does not read and therefore does not abide by the law,” the commission said. “The public can have no confidence in a judge, and hence a judiciary, that is required to know and respect the law but does neither.”
Hall claimed she was afraid to reveal the true source of the donation because she was running in a conservative judicial district at the time and was trying to keep private her involvement in a same-sex relationship.
In 2006 a Butte County judge was fined $7,000 for not disclosing that his father was the source of a $71,000 loan for the campaign, the Union-Tribune reported, while a Humboldt County judge was fined $6,000 in 2002 for filing late and incomplete reports.
This was the second time that campaign regulators have focused on Kreep. He received a warning letter in October 2013 for not properly disclosing payments to campaign vendors in his official disclosure reports, the FPPC said.
The violations that led to the fine were first uncovered during a random audit that the Franchise Tax Board conducts of election campaigns, according to records from the tax agency.
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