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CAGOP Files Complaint About Newsom’s Home, But FPPC Says No Wrongdoing

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Marcio Jose Sanchez
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AP Photo

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission rejected a complaint filed Thursday by the state Republican Party, which alleged Gov. Gavin Newsom failed to disclose details surrounding his $3.7 million Fair Oaks estate in annual reports.

The FPPC investigated a similar complaint earlier this year and cleared Newsom of wrongdoing.

The GOP complaint alleged that the governor either failed to report his ownership in an LLC that purchased the home in 2018, or failed to report the property as a gift. Newsom’s family moved into the home near Sacramento in 2019, early in his tenure as governor.

After an earlier investigation based on an article from the conservative blogsite Redstate, the FPPC “determined that the subject real property transactions did not give rise to any reportable interests,” Christopher Burton, assistant chief of the commission’s enforcement division wrote to Newsom last month. “Therefore, because the allegations have been disproven, we are closing this matter without further action.” 

The agency, which oversees political spending and conflicts of interest, sent a similar response to the California Republican Party late Thursday.

According to state law, gifts to elected officials from close family — including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws — do not need to be reported. 

“Our investigation found that all payments related to the purchase of the subject property emanated from either Newsom himself or an exempted family member; therefore, the payments did not give rise to any reportable gift or income interests,” the FPPC letter reads. 

Still, California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson accused the governor of hiding information about his financial assets, while the Newsom campaign painted the complaint as a distraction.

“Once again, Gavin Newsom is governing California with a mantra of ‘rules for thee, but not for me,’” Millan Patterson said. “Californians deserve transparency from the state’s highest office holder, and we look forward to the FPPC opening an investigation to get to the bottom of this serious matter.”

The party did not respond to questions about the recent investigation that cleared Newsom.

The governor’s campaign spokesperson Nathan Click said the filing is just a distraction by the state’s Republican Party.

“This is a brazen attempt by the GOP to distract from GOP frontrunner Larry Elder’s plans to repeal all vaccine mandates and his record spreading anti-vaccine conspiracy theories,” said Newsom campaign spokesperson Nathan Click. 

With a high-stakes election that could result in the governor’s ouster around the corner, Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson says it’s “FPPC complaint season time,” meaning candidates and political parties may use complaints to draw attention to certain things. 

“The ability to say that an FPPC complaint was filed against a candidate or that there's an ongoing investigation can make it sound very scary and like something nefarious is happening,” she said. “But that's not necessarily the case. In this particular instance, it looks like there was no wrongdoing.”

With the recall election just weeks away, Levinson added this “might not be the last FPPC complaint we see before September 14.”