By Andrew Edwards

Staff Writer

Former Sen. Bob Dutton will not be fined for having a Chevrolet Tahoe registered in his own name as well as a political committee he formed to pay for expenses related to his work in the Legislature.

The Fair Political Practices Commission investigated Dutton's use of the SUV and determined that, technically, Dutton should not have had the vehicle registered in his own name.

The FPPC is essentially California's traffic cop when it comes to campaign finance laws. After checking out Dutton and the Tahoe, they decided to let the former Senate Republican leader off with a warning instead of handing out a ticket.

"It's a warning letter, for us which means `You violated the act, but it's not serious enough to warrant a fine,'\" said Gary Winuk, who is chief of the FPPC's enforcement division.

"It's kind of a technical violation," he added.

Dutton has said he never intended to skirt campaign finance laws and only added had his own name to the vehicle's title for insurance purposes.

The former state senator accepted the FPPC's decision, but suggested the agency publish an advisory to help other lawmakers avoid a similar error.

"They might want to provide a little more clarity," Dutton said.

Dutton left the state Senate to run for Congress last year, but fellow Republican Gary Miller won the election to represent the 31st Congressional District, which runs from Rancho Cucamonga to Redlands.


Advertisement

The FPPC's warning letter shows the agency accepted Dutton's explanation that he put his name on the title in order to obtain insurance. The agency also notes that Dutton has sold the vehicle and placed the money in his officeholder's account.

California lawmakers can use an officeholder's committee to collect donations to cover expenses related to holding public office. They cannot use money tied to an officeholder's committee for their political campaigns.

The FPPC investigated Dutton's use of the Tahoe following a December report from the Associated Press that at least a dozen lawmakers purchased vehicles that had been repaired at government expense prior to buying the vehicles after the state cut legislators' vehicles in 2011.

The Tahoe, a 2005, model sold for about $7,000, Dutton said.

Dutton is still settling his committee's accounts, he said. He plans to donate remaining dollars to charity.

andrew.edwards@inlandnewspapers.com

909-483-8550, @InlandGov