When the race for the GOP nomination for Congressional District 19 began, I thought we had four pretty upstanding candidates in the race. I knew that Fresno Council Member Larry Westerlund was an unlikely contender, and that former Congressman Richard Pombo would have a tough time as a former incumbent, but the race started off strong on the issues, and has since degenerated into a mess.
Between State Senator Jeff Denham and former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson, it was easy to understand that Denham would have a massive money lead due to power of incumbency in fundraising. What I didn’t expect is that Denham would push the limits of campaign finance law to the brink – and perhaps violate those laws in the process.
With $700,000 in his non federal accounts to start this race, money he is prohibited from spending by law in his Congressional run, Denham and his advisors instead opted for a more "curious", and perhaps illegal way to get those soft dollars into his campaign.
As his State report shows today, he donated $25,000 and loaned $150,000 to "Remember the Brave Foundation", a non profit set up to help "Gold Star Families", or families that have lost loved ones in combat operations. A worthy cause indeed. Except for this: Remember the Brave has taken that money and produced television commercials featuring ………. State Senator Jeff Denham, for the promotion of a charity concert to be held at the Chukchansi Casino in Madera County on May 28th.
The concert is being promoted heavily by the Foundation, with spending featuring Senator Denham in excess of $100,000. The adverstising is being coordinated by Dave Gilliard, whose firm also purchases advertising for Denham’s Congressional campaign.
Even more suspicious is that the concert venue itself seats about 1800, and the top ticket price is $45. Doing the math, if they sell out the concert, the GROSS REVENUE for the event will be about $85,000. So the foundation, with the help of Jeff Denham, is spending over $100,000 in advertising to generate gross sales of $85,000, and the advertising is being done by the same agency as the Denham campaign. If this isn’t worthy of investigation, nothing is.
Now, anyone questioning this arrangement is being branded "anti veteran", which is just stupid. Do we just ignore the rule of law when veteran groups are involved? I don’t think so. If the Denham campaign was truly interested in helping the Remembering the Brave Foundation, they should have just quietly cut a check for $100,000 from their non federal account.
The Chukchansi Tribe has gone apoplectic over all of this, allegedly firing up to a dozen people and denying all allegations of being an accomplice to this activity. I’ve uploaded several documents for you to review, should you care to.
The first is an internal memo from the Casino’s marketing committee, which actually references this concert as a Denham fundraiser. The second is a copy of a memo to the FEC commissioners outlining the concerns regarding the legality of the advertising connected to the concert, and the third is a list of those opposing a project that another Tribe is working on for a competing Casino – a project opposed by Jeff Denham.
There is something unseamly about all of this. The situation is begging to be investigated and should be, immediately.
Today’s Fresno Bee features a story on this campaign finance controversy, detailing the concerns of many about the legality of what Denham is doing. In addition, there appears to be yet another violation of campaign finance laws with regard to slate male. Senator Denham’s Lt. Governor campaign paid $65,000 for the COPS voter guide last fall. After he declared for Congress, we looked for a refund of that money to his LG campaign account and it wasn’t there.
Now Denham shows up on the COPS slate as a Congressional Candidate. We cannot find a disbursement from his Congressional Campaign account to COPS. Conclusion: there is a strong possibility that this slate was paid for illegally with non federal, or soft money. I’ve attached the documentation to this post.
Finally, we’ve written a letter to the FEC asking for a thorough investigation of all of these matters. I’ve attached the letter to this post.