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By Brian Park

In response to a San Juan Capistrano resident’s formal complaint, the California Fair Political Practices Commission will look into alleged campaign violations committed by Capistrano Common Sense, the local watchdog group and publishers of a monthly newsletter, who are also supporters of City Council candidates Roy Byrnes and Kim McCarthy.

On Wednesday, the state commission’s enforcement division notified Edmond Connor, who filed the complaint on September 24, via letter that they would begin an investigation to determine if Capistrano Common Sense and the Committee for Common Sense Solutions—an offshoot of the group that has established a campaign website for Byrnes and McCarthy—are in violation of the Political Reform Act.

In his complaint, Connor states that the two groups have broken state laws because of their open advocacy for the two candidates, as well as their solicitation of campaign donations, despite neither being registered as political action committees.

Gary Winuk, chief of the enforcement division, wrote, “please be advised that at this time we have not made any determination about the validity of the allegation(s) you have made or about the culpability, if any, of the person(s) you identify in your complaint.”

The Committee for Common Sense Solutions’ website accepts campaign donations up to $250, a limit set by a city ordinance. Capistrano Common Sense’s editorial website also solicits donations, but editorial board members say that money does not go toward either Byrnes’ or McCarthy’s campaigns and is only used to “offset our out-of-pocket costs” to produce their monthly newsletter.

“I think this is absolutely bogus,” editorial board member Kim Lefner said in September. “In my opinion, Ed Connor is trying to bully us into silence. We have been publishing for three years.”

Connor said he was prompted to issue the complaint after speaking with several neighbors about one of Capistrano Common Sense’s monthly newsletters. Connor, who received the newsletter himself in September, cited two articles in his complaint, including one written by Byrnes titled “Why I am running for San Juan City Council” and another denouncing candidates Sam Allevato, an incumbent, and Planning Commissioner Ginny Kerr.

“I received that newsletter in my house, and I was struck by what a political hit piece it was,” Connor said. “They crossed the line into political advocacy.”

State code prohibits candidates or committees from sending mass mailings unless their names and addresses are included. Another part of the code identifies mass mailings as “two hundred substantially similar pieces of mail,” not including form letters or responses to unsolicited requests. According to the Capistrano Common Sense website, their newsletter is delivered to “approximately 10,000 homes City-wide.”

Connor also sent his complaint to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the city of San Juan Capistrano.

The D.A.’s office is currently reviewing the complaint, according to Jaime Coulter, the head of the special prosecutions unit. City Attorney Hans Van Ligten was out of town and unable to be reached for comment.

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comments (4)

  • Brian-

    Having filed a few FPPC complaints in the past, I can tell you that the language you have cited in your article is exactly the same language that is used in FPPC form letters sent to the parties involved in a complaint.

    Anyone can file a complaint and the FPPC has a duty to investigate it. It’s a well-worn tactic used to cast aspersions on political rivals. This is obviously what Ed Connor is doing; he is a supporter of city council candidates Sam Allevato and Ginny Kerr and a vocal opponent of Kim McCarthy and Roy Byrnes.

    There’s no news here – it’s just politics.

  • Brian,

    I emailed you copies of two letters I received from the FPPC on complaints I had filed against two City Council members. These two letters are the exact same as the letter that Ed Conner received. They state that they are going to conduct an investigation. I welcome that. Without an investigation, they cannot reach a conclusion.

    This would be the same as if I sent you a letter to the editor and you emailed me back stating that you received the email and you are looking at the letter. That is it nothing more.

    Just a suggestion, post a copy of Ed Conners letter and the copies of the two letters that I received from the FPPC. Let the readers decide what kind of victory Ed Conner can claim on a form letter that the FPPC sends out on every single complaint that they receive when they receive the complaint.

  • I think you are
    Using Headlines to Hurt.
    I picked up and read your paper
    Last week and found it amazingly
    Slanted against the “common sense candidates”
    No ” fair and balanced” at the Dispatch.
    Mr. Connor may just be wasting government
    Time and Dollars-
    Free Speech for everyone!
    Let’s all just pray that the “right” people get into
    Every office this November 6-

Comments are closed.