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Fletcher Used Loophole to Take Money from Law Enforcement Unions

Nathan Fletcher
Created: 19 April, 2023
Updated: 13 September, 2023
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9 min read


San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher has used an obscure campaign committee to accept money above the County Board's contribution limits from three County law enforcement groups barred from contributing directly to Supervisors by the County's elections laws, and also in violation of a Democratic Party rule against accepting money from police unions.

The use of a little-known state campaign committee has allowed Fletcher to deliberately take contributions from three County law enforcement unions with interests in front of the County Board of Supervisors without abiding by the County's strict contributions limits created to prevent conflict-of-interests or pay-to-play schemes in what a political science professor calls "a slush fund."

Fletcher, who was first elected to the County Board of Supervisors in November 2018 and recently won a second four-year term in November 2022, launched a new 2024 campaign to run for the California State Senate but ended that effort last month after allegations of sexual harassment filed by a former public employee.

But, in addition to raising money for his County Board elections, Fletcher has also maintained a low-profile campaign committee for the San Diego County Democratic Party's Central Committee, the publicly elected body that governs the Party's local operations.

The Fletcher for Democratic Central Committee 2020 account was created on November 1, 2019.

Nathan Fletcher
Form creating Nathan Fletcher for Central Committee campaign account

 

Central Committee members are Party leaders and activists who run for office in Presidential Primary elections and are elected by Assembly District. Six members are elected in each district on the same election ballot as other elected officials.

Unlike Fletcher's County Board campaign committee which is under County election laws limiting contributions to a maximum of $900 and only acceptable from individuals or single-owner companies, Central Committees accounts have no contribution dollar limits and can accept donations from corporations, political action committees (PACs), labor unions, and even other campaigns.

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While serving his second year on the Board of Supervisors, Fletcher began accepting contributions into his Central Committee account.

“It’s very worrisome, it allows the candidates to go around campaign financing restrictions,” Jodi Balma, a political science professor at Fullerton College said regarding the use of Central Committee accounts. “It gives large donors outside influence…It’s kind of a slush fund.”

Fletcher accepted three contributions on January 30, 2020, including a $10,000 check from Manpower San Diego, a local staffing company; $4,700 from Building California Together PAC; and a $1,000 contribution from California YIMBY Victory Fund.

Then on February 15, 2020, Fletcher accepted a $10,000 contribution from the San Diego County Deputy Sheriff's Association, the labor union representing over 4,000 deputies that endorses candidates for County Board, including Fletcher, but cannot donate directly to his county campaign.

Nathan Fletcher

$10,000 Contribution from Deputy Sheriffs' Association on Feb 15, 2020

 

County Supervisors vote to approve the funding levels for the Sheriff's Department, as well as vote on final approval of new Sheriff's Department employee contracts, so they have a direct impact on the Department's 4,000 deputies.

The contribution was also clearly in violation of a 2020 San Diego County Democratic Party resolution barring the Party from accepting "all donations from law enforcement unions and associations and demands that all San Diego Democratic elected officials refuse such contributions as well and reject the endorsement of such associations."

Nathan Fletcher
Democratic Party resolution banning contributions from police unions

 

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On February 25, 2020, Fletcher received a $2,500 contribution from the Pechanga Band of Luisano Indians, who own their gaming casino in Temecula.

None of those contributions could have been accepted into his County Board campaign because they are over $900 and not from individuals or single-owner companies.

Fletcher reported only spending $5,000 from the Central Committee account on a slate mailer promoting his candidacy for the Party position in the March 2020 election.

On March 3, 2020, Fletcher appeared on the election ballot for the Central Committee position in the 80th Assembly District where he lives with his wife, former State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher. Gonzalez Fletcher represented the 80th District until January 2022 when she resigned to accept the position as the leader of the California Labor Federation.

Of the 27 people who ran for the six open positions, Fletcher ended up in third place with 13,082 votes, behind David Alvarez, who at the time was not in public office, and Vivian Moreno, who serves on the San Diego City Council.

Fletcher raised a total of $29,500 into the Central Committee account in early 2020, and, after the election, donated $5,000 to the San Diego County Democratic Party, and $10,000 to the California Democratic Party.

Then on June 6, 2020, more than three months after the election, Fletcher also received a $1,000 contribution from Pfizer, the manufacturer of one of the COVID-19 vaccines the County was encouraging the public to use just as the pandemic was beginning to spread across the country.

Nathan Fletcher

$1,000 contribution from Pfizer Inc. on June 9, 2020.

 

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Pfizer, as a company, could not contribute directly to Fletcher's County Board campaign.

By the end of 2020, Fletcher's Central Committee account only held $8,491.70 in cash, but his fundraising into that committee continued into 2021, even though he won't face another Party election until 2024.

In May 2021, as Fletcher was gearing up for his re-election to the County Board of Supervisors, he received a $10,000 contribution from the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians, and a $60,000 check from the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters PAC on December 20, 2021. 

Nathan Fletcher

$60,000 contribution from Carpenters' union

 

During 2021, Fletcher donated another $5,000 to the San Diego County Democratic Party, as well as $2,500 to the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, and ended the year with $60,319.94 on hand.

In February 2022, Fletcher filed to update the name of the committee to Fletcher for Democratic Central Committee 2024, anticipating he will run for the Party position again in March 2024, and continued to raise money into the little-known committee last year.

Sometime between January 1 and April 23, 2022, Fletcher used money from the Central Committee account to pay $10,000 to Amplify campaigns, a political consulting firm owned by Daniel Rottenstreich, whose wife, Brigette Browning, is the leader of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, a group of 136 unions in two counties.

Rottenstriech was serving as the campaign consultant for Fletcher's Supervisor re-election campaign at the time. 

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During that same period, Fletcher donated another $2,500 to Browning's Labor Council.  

Fletcher continued receiving contributions into the Central Committee account and accepted money from law enforcement unions that represent County employees directly subject to Fletcher's authority as a member of the County Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors approves new labor agreements with the three law enforcement employee unions for Deputy Sheriffs, Deputy District Attorneys, and Probation Officers, as well the overall budgets of all county departments, including the Sheriff's Department, District Attorney's office, and Probation Department.

On June 2, 2022, just five days before the Primary Election where Fletcher was facing re-election to the County Board of Supervisors, he received another law enforcement union contribution into his Central Committee account: a $10,000 contribution from the San Diego County Deputy District Attorneys' Associations.

Nathan Fletcher
$10,000 contribution from the Deputy District Attorneys union

 

On the day of the June 7th election where Fletcher faced little opposition from Republican Amy Reichert, he donated $35,000 to the San Diego County Democratic Party from his Central Committee account.

Then on August 29th, 2022, Fletcher received another $10,000 check from the San Diego County Deputy District Attorneys Association, then a $7,500 check from the San Diego County Probation Officers Association PAC on September 19th, both into the Central Committee account.

Nathan Fletcher
Contributions from Deputy District Attorneys & Probation Officers unions

 

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Between July 1st and September 24th, Fletcher donated another $2,500 to the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council from the Central Committee account.

In the month leading up to the November 2022 election for County Supervisor, Fletcher accepted two more large contributions into the Central Committee account: A $10,000 contribution from the Pechanga Band of Luisano Indians, and a $10,000 check from Unicare Systems, a healthcare company based in Chula Vista.

On election night, Fletcher spent more than $3,000 from the Central Committee account on food, drinks, and a hotel room at the Westin hotel in downtown, even though the election was for his County Board ere-election, not the Democratic Central Committee which will be in 2024.

Fletcher was re-elected to a second term on the County Board of Supervisors on November 8, 2022.

After the election, Fletcher took in a $1,000 contribution from the Teamsters Local 856 PAC and, then, on December 31, 2022, transferred $9,800 from the Central Committee account to his newly formed campaign for California State Senate.

Fletcher ended the 2022 year with over $34,000 remaining in his Central Committee 2024 account.

During the same period when Fletcher raised and spent money from the Central Committee account, he also raised over $985,000 into his 2022 County Board re-election committee.

On the last day of 2022, Fletcher transferred $602,663.67 from his County Board campaign to his newly formed campaign committee to run for the 39th State Senate District, leaving just $2,500 in the account.

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State law governs the creation and use of Central Committee accounts, but provides no campaign contribution limits. There is no restriction on elected officials who serve in offices that restrict contributions from corporations or PACs and impose campaign contribution limits for their respective offices to also raise unrestricted funds through Central Committee accounts.

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