“The First Amendment does not permit laws that force speakers to retain a campaign finance attorney....”

U.S. Supreme Court, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 2010



More Information

Read Susan's column of October 6, 2019 on the need to reform the Political Reform Act. Orange County Register Los Angeles Daily News Riverside Press-Enterprise Long Beach Press-Telegram Pasadena Star-News

Read official documents about cases discussed:

Patty Lopez (stipulation)

G. Rick Marshall (fighting)

Dan Schnur (stipulation)

Arcadian's Rights Protection Association (stipulation)

How to Submit Written Public Comments

The FPPC invites public comment on the items on its agenda and other matters. Comment letters may be sent by email to the Commission Assistant at at:


Or by postal mail to:

Commission Assistant, Fair Political Practices Commission, 1102 Q Street, Suite 3000, Sacramento, CA 95811.

Book Club

Highly recommended: "The Intimidation Game" by Kimberley Strassel

"The Intimidation Game" by Kimberley Strassel

Not a paid advertisement. No compensation has been paid and no commission is earned on sales. The author of this book is not associated with this website.





Looking for the audio recording of the Probable Cause hearing in Susan's case? Click here.

Link to the Agenda and Documents for the FPPC's Law and Policy Committee meeting on July 13, at 10:00 a.m.: http://www.fppc.ca.gov/about-fppc/hearings-meetings-workshops/committee-meetings/committee-past-agendas/law-policy-committee/2020-agendas/jul-2020-agenda.html


This website has been launched to make public all the documents in FPPC case No. 15/003 against columnist and former Assembly candidate Susan Shelley.

In 2017, the FPPC staff wrote this about this case:




What is this case about?

A note from Susan:

In 2013, I was a first-time state candidate in a special election for the California Assembly in District 45, the west San Fernando Valley. The reason for the special election was the decision in 2012 by the incumbent assemblyman, Bob Blumenfield, to run simultaneously for re-election to the Assembly and for an open seat on the L.A. City Council. He won both: re-election in November 2012, and the City Council seat on March 5, 2013. But he delayed his resignation from the Assembly until June 30.

When I did the research to find out how to run for a state legislative race, I was told that it wasn't legal to raise money for the special election because it didn't exist until the seat was officially vacated. The only legal way to raise money for a campaign, a practical necessity, was to open a campaign committee for the next scheduled election (2014), and then when the seat was vacated, to open a committee for the 2013 special election. That's what all the candidates in the race did, and that's what I did. Mine was an all-volunteer campaign and I was the principal volunteer, so I was the treasurer.

Although I looked for information on what was required, and although I was in touch with the staff of the FPPC and the Secretary of State's office to ask for help to comply with everything, I didn't find all the requirements. This apparently was a common problem for new candidates, because in February 2015, the FPPC launched an "Online Candidate Toolkit" to provide a "one-site, one-stop" place for candidates to find the information they needed in order to comply with the law.

But that didn't exist in 2013 and I didn't find everything. I filed everything I knew to file as soon as I knew to file it, and I communicated with the FPPC staff by email to ask questions and to ask for help when I couldn't figure out how to get transfers of funds to show up correctly on the Cal-Access system.

I never found the schedule for the pre-election reports, but I filed them electronically whenever I found out that I had missed one. In February 2014 the Secretary of State's office sent letters informing me that I owed fines of $10-per-day for late reports in the primary and the late mailing of their paper hardcopies, which I promptly paid. Months after that, more letters arrived with the news of $10-per-day fines for late reports in the general election. There had been, in total, sixteen separately enforced deadlines for pre-election reports all due within a 90-day period, and the fines added up in a hurry. When the second batch of letters arrived, I filled out the enclosed forms to appeal to the Secretary of State's office for a waiver of liability, explaining the circumstances--two committees, the compressed special election calendar, searching for the filing schedule, no professional staff. Finding "good cause," the Secretary of State's office waived most of the fines. I paid the rest. In total, I paid $2,210 in fines for late pre-election reports.

The campaign was routinely audited by the Franchise Tax Board, which found that the two committees substantially complied with the law, except for the issues with the reports.

More than a year later, in January 2016, the FPPC sent me a letter informing me that they were bringing charges against me for violating the Political Reform Act, and unless I signed their enclosed stipulated agreement, waived all my rights, and sent them a check for $6,000, they would come after me for worse.

And they did.

State regulations call for an evaluation of all the circumstances surrounding such violations, including whether there was a good-faith effort to comply with the law and whether there was an intent to deceive. Although the FPPC acknowledges that I made a good-faith effort and had no intent to deceive, they decided that what happened here amounted to 11 counts of violating the Political Reform Act with a potential penalty, at $5,000 each, of $55,000. And then they pressured me to sign their stipulated agreement and pay less, but still thousands of dollars. I asked for a hearing.

This process went on for years and through three different FPPC attorneys. They eventually decided to charge me with five counts, declaring that they had reduced the charges in light of the potential confusion of the two committees, a "unique" circumstance.

There finally was a hearing on June 19, 2019. You can read the full transcript of it, all the briefs and closing arguments, the proposed decision from the judge, the briefs to the Commission, and more at the links below.

Judge for yourself.


Documents and more from FPPC Case No. 15/003

(If you have any trouble opening the files, download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader here.)


Amended Report in Support of a Finding of Probable Cause

Susan's response to Probable Cause report

FPPC's Rebuttal to Response to Probable Cause report

Listen to the audio recording of the Probable Cause hearing in 2017

FPPC staff finds probable cause for 11 counts of violating the Political Reform Act


Complainant's (FPPC's) Amended Hearing Brief

Respondents' (Susan's) Hearing Brief

Respondents' Motion to Dismiss

Transcript of June 19, 2019, hearing in the Office of Administrative Hearings

Complainant's (FPPC's) Closing Argument

Respondents' (Susan's) Reply to Complainant's Closing Argument

Respondents' (Susan's) Closing Argument

Complainant's (FPPC's) Reply to Respondent's Closing Argument

Proposed Decision by Administrative Law Judge Deena Ghaly

Complainant's (FPPC's) Brief in Support of Proposed Decision

Respondents' (Susan's) Brief in Opposition to Proposed Decision

Complainant's (FPPC's) Reply to Respondent's Brief in Opposition



Public Comments submitted to the FPPC, which the commission refused to consider

Amicus Curiae letter from Charles H. Bell, Jr., which the commission refused to consider

The agenda for the October 18 meeting

The video of the October 18 meeting (includes 5-minute statements to the commission from the Enforcement Division staff and Susan Shelley)

The commission's final decision, which "modified" the proposed decision by reducing the fine from $12,500 to $11,500.