Treasurer: Patterson for Congress to file $300K in undisclosed donations, takes blame for FEC errors
Editor’s update 1/24/21: FEC still reports receiving none of Patterson’s overdue filings covering a year of fundraising.
Dark no more? After a year of failing to submit required campaign finance disclosures to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the treasurer of Buzz Patterson’s Congressional campaign told the Sacto Politico today all absentee filings will be submitted Thursday to the FEC. This will include about $300,000 in previously undisclosed campaign donations raised to defeat Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Ami Bera.
The campaign’s current treasurer Lou Baglietto also took full blame for the failure to submit four previously required FEC filings that cover campaign receipts and spending going back to Oct. 1, 2019. This comes after the campaign did not respond to four “failure to file” follow-up letters from the FEC over the last eight months.
“When it is all said and done, it is all my fault, and I am sorry for that,” Baglietto said. “I feel bad for Buzz that this happened. At the end of the day, it will be all my liability.”
He also shared other details about a political campaign marked by regular behind-the-scenes challenges. This included the campaign’s original political consultant and treasurer being discharged in December, and a current lawsuit against Buzz Patterson in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Questions remain about the identity of the donors who contributed the additional $300,000 and how these funds have been spent during the primary and general elections.
In the March 3 primary, Patterson ran in a five-person field in the 7th Congressional District that covers eastern Sacramento County. He finished second with 33.6% to earn a top-two place to face off on the general election ballot against Bera, who won slightly more than 50% of the primary vote.*
Two weeks ago, The Sacto Politico began asking Patterson’s campaign for comment on its failures to report the last three FEC-required quarterly filings, plus a pre-primary filing that was due 12 days before the March 3 primary. When it was discovered the Patterson campaign had also failed to respond to four subsequent letters from the FEC about these missing filings, the Patterson camp still did not respond.
The Sacto Politico then called Baglietto directly this week, and he shared his explanation about the reporting errors. Based in Long Beach, he said he’s previously submitted FEC filings for other candidates, but more recently he had “changed to a Macintosh system,” which he later learned had compatibility issues with the FEC electronic filing system. He said unknown to him none of his FEC filings for Patterson had gone through successfully.
“We’ve had a real bad technology problem. My system doesn’t really talk to the FEC system. I had to use a third party to submit, and they apparently couldn’t connect either,” he said.
After completing interviews with Baglietto late Tuesday, The Sacto Politico attempted to confirm Baglietto’s comments with Patterson’s Sacramento-based campaign team. Campaign media manager Rey Perez relayed that the campaign officially would have “no comment.” This conflicted with Baglietto telling the publication he was the campaign spokesperson on this issue and was taking all responsibility.
After each missed deadline, FEC records show it sent Patterson’s campaign four individual reminders about the missed filing deadlines. These are called “failure to file” letters and give campaigns an additional chance to file before incurring larger fines. Baglietto claims neither he nor the campaign received any of these. He added he only learned of his technology problem when he received an “automated email” last month from the FEC that caused him to review the issue.
Regarding the reportedly unseen FEC letters, Baglietto blamed the campaign’s previous treasurer for filing an incorrect mailing address with the FEC. However, online FEC records do not reflect this. When Baglietto became the new campaign treasurer in December, his name and contact information were submitted along with a P.O. box in Folsom.
This is the same P.O. box currently listed on Patterson’s campaign web site for mailing donations. This is also the same address to which the four FEC “failure to file” letters were addressed between February and July of this year.
The only quarterly report the FEC currently has on record for the Patterson campaign was submitted by the previous treasurer. This contained a couple unusual expenditure amounts.
For instance, like most campaigns, the Patterson team uses an online fundraising platform to collect credit-card donations. This platform charges a 4% fee on all donations, plus a small per-transaction fee. But the Q2 2019 filing reports that the Patterson campaign paid $5,035 in processing fees to the fundraising platform. At a 4% rate, this equals about $125,000 in donations, but the Patterson campaign reported to the FEC donations of just $26,938.19 for that quarter.
Baglietto explained the apparent discrepancy was due to the previous campaign consultant and his vendors charging very high fees. This included a 70-30 fundraising split on many donations, with the campaign getting just 30%. He believed the fundraising platform included these third-party vendor fees in their fees, so the actual amount raised was far less than $125,000.
“We were bleeding money using these other vendors. These were set up by the campaign’s previous consultant. That is why we changed and why Buzz discharged the previous consultant and treasurer,” he said.
Calls to the previous treasurer were not returned, but The Sacto Politico did reach the previous campaign consultant. He had a complex counter story that includes a current civil suit he has filed against Patterson in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Baglietto said he and the Patterson campaign are currently busy trying to submit all old and upcoming filings by this Thursday, which is also the deadline for submitting the Q3 2020 disclosures. He said these filings will show the Patterson campaign received roughly $85,000 in donations in 2019 and $245,000 in donations this year. He declined to provide many more details than that until they are posted on the FEC site.
Asked whether the Patterson campaign’s lack of financial transparency should concern voters, he said he didn’t think it would be a big issue for most voters.
“The average voter does want to know if you are playing by the rules, and they will soon see all our information. But by and large, the voters want to know what you are going to do once elected,” Baglietto said. “These inside-money stories, that’s all inside baseball and batting averages. Voters aren’t very interested in that.”
However forgiving voters may be — especially learning of this after mail-in voting has begun — is an open question. What is unusual is that the candidate, Buzz Patterson, has offered no public comment or statement on any of this. Not until all filings are posted on the FEC site will the public get to know who exactly has donated to the Patterson campaign and how that money was spent.
In terms of Baglietto, he does have liability exposure. According to the FEC web site, “Treasurers can be found officially (or, in some circumstances, personally) liable for the actions they take.”
Baglietto said he understands this.
“I was delinquent,” he said. “It is pretty extraordinary. At the end of the day, I signed up to help Buzz out. I wouldn’t want to be here, but we are here.”
* SactoPolitico.com founder and editor Jeff Burdick ran in the March 3rd Congressional primary as a first-time candidate against Bera, Patterson and two other candidates. Burdick is a trained journalist, and six months after the primary election, he returned to this vocation by starting The Sacto Politico.
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