LOS ANGELES, CA — Rick Jacobs, Chair of the Courage Campaign, filed complaints today with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Attorney General’s office against Andy Pugno, General Counsel to the organization Protect Marriage and Republican candidate for State Assembly. The complaint alleges Mr. Pugno misused public funds in violation of the state Political Reform Act while a staffer for State Senator Pete Knight in support of a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage, which was eventually approved at the November 2000 election as Proposition 22.
“The new and troubling disclosures appear to demonstrate willful disrespect for the laws and rules governing the conduct of public servants,” Jacobs said. “If he broke California law, how can he expect to be elected to office to make California law? Andy Pugno needs to be investigated and any appropriate consequences levied for his actions.”
Mr. Pugno was a key figure in the recent Proposition 8 trial that took place in the San Francisco courtroom of federal Judge Vaughn Walker, where Mr. Pugno was part of the legal team defending the marriage ban. Documents revealed at the trial showed a clear pattern of collaboration between Mr. Pugno’s client, Protect Marriage, and the leadership of the LDS and Catholic Churches in the planning and management of the campaign to pass Proposition 8. The complaint Jacobs filed indicates that this collaboration dates back to at least 1998, and may have violated state law.
The complaint refers to a report published by investigative journalist Robert Salladay and published at the independent California Watch journalism website on Wednesday in which evidence was presented showing that Mr. Pugno used public resources, including State Senate stationery, phone, and fax lines, to solicit advice from a Brigham Young University law professor, Lynn Wardle, on how to write language for the so-called “Knight Initiative,” which was put before voters in November 2000 and Proposition 22. In a letter dated February 26, 1998 written to Wardle on State Senate letterhead, Mr. Pugno asked advice on how to word the initiative in a way that would win the most votes, a clear act of campaign planning while working for the taxpayers.
The article also indicated that Mr. Pugno traveled to Arizona for campaign-related purposes, but it was not clear at whose expense. Full disclosure is needed, said Jacobs.
The California Watch report also quoted FPPC executive director Roman Porter as saying “The use of public funds for campaign purposes is unlawful.” The complaint against Mr. Pugno filed by Jacobs asserts “Andrew Pugno’s actions on February 26, 1998 are a straightforward example of using public funds for campaign purposes, in this case to plan the campaign for what became Proposition 22.”
Jacobs also wrote a letter to Secretary of the Senate Greg Schmidt requesting public release of important information relating to Pugno’s alleged violation of state law. This stands in contrast to the efforts of Mr. Pugno and Protect Marriage to block the release of documents related to the Proposition 8 campaign, and their efforts to seek a temporary restraining order to shut down the Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 Trial Tracker website.
The complaint letter to the FPPC and letters to the Attorney General and Secretary of the Senate can be viewed at:
Robert Salladay’s article and the documents in question, including the February 26, 1998 letter, can be viewed at:
The Courage Campaign is an online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots activists to push for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country.
Rick Jacobs is the founder and chair of the Courage Campaign. He chaired Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in California. He is also the co-founder of Brave New Films and a featured contributor to Arianna Huffington’s Huffingtonpost.com. Rick has an extensive background as an international investor and senior executive.