Bustamante Ordered to Return Illegal Union Contributions, but Oops, He already Spent Them

A California judge ruled on Sept. 22 that Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D) violated that states campaign contribution limits by using more than $1 million from 3 unions to fight an anti-race preferences proposition.  He was ordered to return the contributions, but Bustamantes campaign strategist said that the funds have already been spent on TV ads.


In 2000, California voters approved Proposition 34, which limited contributions for statewide elections to $21,200 per contributor.  When the recall of Gov. Gray Davis (D) was placed on the California ballot, Bustamante announced his gubernatorial candidacy, and began accepting contributions of as much as $1.5 million into a campaign account that existed before Prop. 34 went into effect, and was not covered under the new limit.  Among the contributions he accepted were $700,000 from the state engineers union, $200,000 from the Amer. Fedtn. of State, County & Municipal Employees, and $200,000 from the United Bhd. of Carpenters.


Bustamante then began transferring those contributions into his current campaign for Gov., but after a firestorm of criticism, shifted them into a fund set up to oppose Proposition 54, which would prevent state officials from gathering racial and ethnic data for possible use in racial preference programs.  Responding to a suit by state Sen. Ross Johnson (R), Sacramento Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster ordered Bustamante to return the contributions, which campaign strategist Richie Ross said had all been spent.  Prop. 54 advocate Ward Connerly argued that Bustamante should be forced to pay back the illegal contributions. [Los Angeles Times, 9/23/03]