Assembly candidate Janet Reilly has accused a Sacramento political action committee of making illegal campaign expenditures on behalf of her opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination for the 12th Assembly District.
Reilly’s campaign said Thursday, it has filed a complaint with the state attorney general, San Francisco district attorney and a state political watchdog commission after a group, “Leaders for an Effective Government”, bought $33,000 worth of cable TV ads supporting Fiona Ma’s campaign.
Under state law, the “independent expenditure,” as it is known, cannot be made in coordination with Ma’s campaign, but the committee was reportedly founded with $1.5 million in funds raised by a Ma campaign co-chairman, former state Sen. John Burton. Ma worked as an aide for Burton for a number of years.
“This doesn’t pass the common sense test,” said Eric Jaye, a Reilly campaign spokesman. “We are asking the question why this dormant political committee is suddenly weighing in on this race. The only plausible explanation is that it is at the behest of John Burton.”
Reilly’s campaign said the committee has been dormant for a number of years.
Ma’s campaign said the charges were a smokescreen.
“If they had evidence of illegal activity they would have gone to a judge to get a temporary restraining order. They are popping some smoke to cover for the IRS thing,” said Tom Hsieh, Ma’s campaign director. “It’s spin, complete spin.”
Hsieh was referring to an electronic tax filing on the IRS Web site that showed Ma served as a campaign treasurer in 2002 for the Republican, anti-abortion governor of South Dakota, Mike Rounds. Reilly’s campaign had circulated the document to various groups, but the IRS reported Thursday it had mistakenly created the document. The Rounds campaign said Wednesday, Ma had never worked for the governor.
After an uneventful start, the Ma-Reilly campaign has heated up in the last week ahead of a critical endorsement by the state Democratic Party this weekend. The party will decide whether to endorse Ma, Reilly or no one in the primary. The primary will take place on June 6. Ma is a city supervisor and a former accountant, while Reilly is a Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District board member and a former TV journalist. They are vying to replace Assemblyman Leland Yee.