Complaint: Campaign Against Same-Sex Marriage Violated State Law

A complaint filed today alleges a lawyer who is arguing in favor of California's Prop 8 and is also a state Assembly candidate illegally used taxpayer resources in a successful campaign against same-sex marriage a decade ago.

Fair Oaks Republican Andy Pugno misused public funds in violation of the state Political Reform Act while a staffer for State Sen. Pete Knight in support of a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage, which was eventually approved as Proposition 22 in November 2000, alleges the complaint filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and state Attorney General's office.

“The new and troubling disclosures appear to demonstrate willful disrespect for the laws and rules governing the conduct of public servants,” says Rick Jacobs, chairman of the pro-marriage equality Courage Campaign that filed the complaint. “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.”

Documents revealed at the high-profile Prop 8 trial in San Francisco showed Pugno's client, the marriage-denying Protect Marriage, was in tight with the leadership of the Mormon and Catholic churches in the planning and management of the campaign to pass the voter initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California as long ago as 1998.

Today's complaint indicates that collaboration may have violated state law. It further points to the work of investigative journalist Robert Salladay of California Watch, which Wednesday published evidence that 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 Knight Initiative.

Included was a letter dated Feb. 26, 1998, written to Wardle on State Senate letterhead, in which 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,” according to the Courage Campaign, which noted the Salladay article also indicated that Pugno traveled to Arizona for campaign-related purposes, but it was not clear at whose expense. Full disclosure is needed, according to Jacobs.

“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 says. Salladay includes a quote from FPPC executive director Roman Porter saying, “The use of public funds for campaign purposes is unlawful.”

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

The complaint letter to the FPPC and letters to the Attorney General and Secretary of the Senate can be viewed here.

Jacobs, the founder of the 700,000-strong Courage Campaign online organizing network,  chaired Howard Dean's presidential campaign in California, co-founded Brave New Films and is a featured Huffingtonpost contributor.

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