By Danielle Wallace
Published November 23, 2019
A former California Democratic lawmaker was ordered to pay $150,000 on Thursday after admitting to pulling funds from campaign coffers in part to pay for a trip to Asia, finance an expensive remodeling project on his Hawaii vacation home, and book flights for him and his wife to London and Washington, D.C.
Joseph Canciamilla, 64, was slapped with the maximum penalty the state allows for a campaign finance violation following a unanimous vote by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.
An investigation conducted by the California elections watchdog found Canciamilla misused more than $130,000 in campaign dollars raised from two local fundraising committees he created and falsified state filings to cover up the spending, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“This is a spectacular fall from grace,” Commissioner Frank Cardenas told The Sacramento Bee. “It’s a breathtaking arrogance. There are particularly egregious issues here that appear to go, at least on their face, beyond mirror of civil law.”
“It’s a breathtaking arrogance. There are particularly egregious issues here that appear to go, at least on their face, beyond mirror of civil law.”
Commissioner Alison Hayward told San Francisco’s KPIX-TV Canciamilla’s violations were “particularly repugnant.”
“They show that a person who is raising money in trust for a political purpose is then converting that money to personal income,” she added.
Canciamilla served in the California State Assembly in Sacramento from 2000 to 2006 before he was appointed clerk-recorder in Contra Costa County near San Francisco. He served as a Democrat at the time. He is now registered as “No Party Preference,” according to The Bee.
The violations were found in the use of funding from one committee formed in 2011 for his campaign for judge in Contra Costa County Superior Court. He ultimately did not enter that race. Canciamilla also misused money raised in a second committee formed in 2012 for clerk-recorder. He won that office twice before abruptly resigning Oct. 31 when the campaign violations were discovered.
“Mr. Canciamilla has taken full responsibility for this situation, is humbled and embarrassed, and hopes the FPPC fines won’t severely overshadow his 46 years of public service to the residents of Contra Costa County,” his attorney, Andy Rockas, said in a statement, according to The Chronicle.
He “has cooperated with the FPPC, has paid back all disputed amounts, and all fines listed in the proposed stipulation have been paid in full,” Rockas added.
The commission launched an investigation after the Political Reform Audit Program of the Franchise Tax Board found irregularities in his filings. Canciamilla’s spending “was concealed on campaign statements by other reporting violations including non-reporting and the over-statement of available cash on hand,” according to the elections watchdog.
Canciamilla agreed to pay the $150,000 settlement for violating the Political Reform Act, which prohibits candidates from mixing campaign funds with personal finances. The commission also referred the case to the Contra Costa County’s district attorney’s office, which will decide whether to file criminal charges. The county’s retirement board is expected to review his pension.