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Questionable PAC Payments Divide House Hispanic Caucus

Six members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have cut ties to the group's fundraising committee after it gave campaign cash to nonfederal candidates — including the committee chairman's sons.

Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., who chairs the Building Our Leadership Diversity Political Action Committee, or BOLDPAC, defended the decision to give $3,300 each to Joe Baca Jr., a member of the California Assembly who's running for state Senate, and to Jeremy Baca, who is running for California Assembly.

"We should not discriminate against any member who has a family member who wants to serve in public office, whether it's mine or anyone else's," said Baca. He said the decision to give to his sons was made by a seven-member board of lawmakers that oversees the political action committee's expenditures. Baca said he did not vote.

In a letter to Baca, the six lawmakers said BOLDPAC needed to focus on federal candidates and boost Democratic efforts to retake control of the House. In interviews, several also said Baca Jr. is running against another Latino candidate, Assemblywoman Gloria Negrete-McLeod, in the Democratic primary.

BOLDPAC's focus should be "winning the House back and focusing on that, electing Hispanic candidates in the House, and certainly not getting involved in state races where you have two Latino candidates running against each other," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif.

The six lawmakers asked that their names no longer be used on BOLDPAC fundraising appeals. Others who signed it were California Democrats Loretta Sanchez, Jim Costa, Linda Sanchez and Hilda Solis, and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.

"I've always just been concerned because my name is associated with it that the finances are done correctly. So I asked questions about it and things didn't look the sweetest, let's put it that way," Loretta Sanchez said. "Then we got wind that Baca wanted to give money to his sons."

Baca said the committee, formed in 2000, has long gotten involved in local races, including choosing one Hispanic candidate over another.

"We also have a responsibility to build a farm team, to look at potential candidates who may run in the future. What these people basically said is that we don't believe in a farm team, we're only going to focus on the congressional seats," Baca said.

"We should have never laundered any of these issues publicly," he added.

BOLDPAC raised just over $100,000 last year, according to Federal Election Commission records.