(Editor’s note: Oh, what a long, strange trip it’s been for former state Sen. Joel Anderson who, like Old Man River, keeps running for political office while playing fast and loose with campaign finance laws, along.
Over 10 years ago, when he was a state assemblyman from La Mesa, Joel Anderson was the subject of an investigation into questionable campaign contributions that ended with election regulators fining him $20,000 and the legislator admitting he made a mistake.
Anderson now succeeds Dianne Jacob on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, despite investigations involving recent political donations by some of the same contributors from a decade ago. He was sworn in Jan. 4, 2021. Get ready for plenty of legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that owns Anderson like a rented mule.)
Anderson represented California’s 38th State Senate District from 2014 until he was term-limited out of office in 2018. The district runs through nearly one-third of San Diego County and includes El Cajon, Escondido, parts of San Diego, San Marcos, Valley Center, Ramona, Temecula and the Backcountry.
Anderson won with 146,510 votes to 66,066 votes for Democrat Fotios “Frank” Tsimboukakis, a nearly 2-1 margin, in 2014. His term ends in 2018. Term limits passed in 1996 allows a person to serve a total of 12 years either in the Assembly, the Senate, or a combination of both. Anderson, 59, a Cal Poly Pomona graduate, first was elected to the House from the 77th District.
Not that Anderson, former legislator of the year for the Koch Brothers infamous ALEC, has any forward thinking ideas or even ethical principles.
Just a heavily tilted playing field with 200,864 registered Republicans and 148,774 registered Democrats as of October, 2016. No-party preference was indicated by 124,676 voters.
Lots and lots and lots of money, mostly all from outside the district and from a variety of corporate and business interests that career politician Anderson represents along with ALEC.
The Anderson File
Ever forward-thunking, Anderson has used a loophole in campaign finance rules to be able to spend eight times more money than any other candidate in the 2020 San Diego County Supervisors race. He already has announced his candidacy for the seat term-limited out of by Diane Jacob.
Here’s how the loophole worked. Initially, Anderson said he would run against Jacob who won a seventh-term last fall. The San Diego County Republican Party gave him $200,000, the 2016 funding limit for a party.
San Diego Supervisors changed campaign finance rules in 2015 to limit donations from political parties to supervisor campaigns to $25,000. The Republican party made its $200,000 donation the day before the new limit went into effect in March 5, 2016. Campaign finance rules allow candidates to transfer money from previous accounts bearing their name. Otherwise, Anderson had $59,000 in his coffers.
Sixty percent of Anderson’s funds came from outside District 2, which covers mostly unincorporated areas stretching from La Mesa in the west to Imperial county in the east and Julian in the north to the Mexican border in the south.
It looks like a legal loophole, unlike the illegal one in 2009 for which Anderson paid the price.
Trouble in the Central Valley
The Fair Political Practices Commission found that Anderson, then of La Mesa, accepted contributions in excess of the legal limit. The donations originated with supporters in his district who contributed money to the Fresno County Republican Central Committee, which donated similar amounts to Anderson within days.
A fine of $29,000 was recommended for the Fresno County GOP for its role in the transactions and for failing to properly disclose the contributions to Anderson.
Anderson and the Fresno County GOP agreed to the fines, according to commission staff.
The fines were fairly steep by commission standards: Anderson’s $20,000 fine is close to the $25,000 maximum for that violation; Fresno County GOP’s $29,000 fine is out of a $40,000 maximum.
Here is how the scam worked, according to Tony Quinn of Fox & Hounds:
“Anderson contributed $32,400 from his 2008 campaign fund to the Fresno County Republican Central Committee. In June, he sent $32,400 to the Placer GOP committee and an equal amount to the Stanislaus County committee. Also in May, three members of the Hamann family of El Cajon – longtime supporters of Anderson – contributed $30,000 to the Fresno Committee. In June, the Barona Band of Mission Indians in San Diego County gave $10,000 to the Fresno party.
Sounds like Fresno, Placer and Stanislaus are doing mighty well off Anderson and his friends, but in fact all this money, minus a small amount retained by the counties, was sent back to Anderson for his planned 2010 campaign for an open State Senate seat. According to the San Diego Union, here’s how much was sent to the committees, and how much was sent back to Anderson:
Fresno: $32,400 from Anderson 2008 committee; $31,400 to Anderson 2010 committee.
Placer: $32,400 from Anderson 2008 committee; $31,400 to Anderson 2010 committee
Stanislaus: $32,400 from Anderson 2008 committee; $31,400 to Anderson 2010 committee.
Hamann Family: $30,000 to Fresno GOP Committee; $28,500 from Fresno Committee to Anderson 2010 committee.
Barona Band of Mission Indians: $10,000 to Fresno GOP Committee, $9,500 to Anderson 2010 Committee.
What is going on here? Well, Proposition 34’s $3,900 limit to a candidate does not apply to party central committees. They may contribute as much as they want to party candidates. Proposition 34 was purposely written with this loophole in mind so party committees could act as “pass through” agents to ship money from interest groups to candidates. But there cannot be any coordination between the donor, the party committee, and the candidate, or you would have a prima facie case of illegal money laundering.”
Political analyst James Hardline said:
“Chronic corruption and hypocrisy in the political career of Joel Anderson are so disturbing that the implications go far beyond Anderson’s insidious obsession with being a career political bureaucrat. Indeed, everyone should be asking themselves WHY are East County evangelical church leaders continuing to violate their alleged Biblical Christianity as they partner with the very unbiblical political decisions being made by Anderson?
“The money trail of illegal campaign contributions to Joel Anderson’s campaign coffers from church-connected construction firm Hamann Construction, his previous illegal endorsement by the conservative group California Republican Assembly and his untoward scam of mixing a prior door-to-door effort to sign up voters for a pro-life parental notification initiative with his asking those same voters to sign his candidacy registration drive to avoid paying the filing fee are demonstrative of a politician who is so chronically void of all scruples that he should be classified as a walking scandal waiting to happen as he prepares to share a prison cell with Duke Cunningham.”
Hardline added: “After being found guilty of taking illegal campaign contributions and paying some hefty fines, it is mindboggling that Anderson is again taking large campaign contributions from the very people tied to his earlier illegal campaign contributions. What kind of back room deals is Anderson making with executives at Hamann Construction so that they continue to load up his campaign with contributions, particularly since Hamann was one of the main culprits in Anderson’s earlier disgraceful illegal campaign corruption scandal?”
When it comes to occupation, aside from career politician and lobbyist, on officials election forms Anderson in 2002 said “consultant.” For the 2004 election he put “executive” as occupation, In 2005, his occupation was “retired. In 2006, he came out of retirement to declare himself “businessman/board president.”
In 2011 Anderson was a “business owner” and in 2012 listed his occupation as state senator, finally something truthful.
American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC for short
Anderson is a primary leader in ALEC, even bringing the group’s national meeting to San Diego in 2015. He has been the group’s California state chairman for years, served on many group leadership committees and even taken group money for personal expenses.
ALEC’s agenda includes rolling back civil rights, challenging government restrictions on polluters, infringing on workers’ rights, limiting government regulations of commerce, privatizing public services, and representing the interests of the corporations that make up its supporters.
ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, is completely financed by large corporations and private donors, especially representing the oil industry, pharmaceutical and tobacco companies and the billionaire Koch brothers. Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, Altria are big backers with corporations using ALEC to formulate, present and promote model legislation to elected officials who are ALEC members and sometimes hold leadership roles in the organization
ALEC has provided legislation boosting insurance companies at the expense of consumers, providing for tobacco company regulatory breaks and privatizing public education. It also has provided a forum for those denying climate change.
The group was founded by Paul Weyrich in 1973 to promote a conservative social agenda. Weyrich also co-founded the Heritage Foundation and coined the phrase “moral majority.” It evolved into an organization promoting pro-business, free market doctrines.
Google famously pulled out of ALEC last year with chairman Eric Schmidt criticizing the group’s anti-climate change stance. Other major corporations ending ALEC support in the last few years include Microsoft GM, Coke, Proctor & Gamble and Bank of America.
The watchdog group ALEC Exposed said:
ALEC has long been a secretive collaboration between big business and “conservative” politicians. Behind closed doors, they ghostwrite “model” bills to be introduced in state capitols across the country. This agenda – underwritten by global corporations – includes major tax loopholes for big industries and the super-rich, proposals to offshore U.S. jobs and gut minimum wage, and efforts to weaken public health, safety, and environmental protections.
Anderson let the world know of his 2011 “Legislator of the Year” award from ALEC on a news release you can access here.
El Cajon, CA – Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) was named a recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “Legislator of the Year” Award at the organization’s annual meeting in New Orleans, LA on August 4, 2011.
“I am pleased to recognize Senator Joel Anderson as a Legislator of the Year, and would like to thank him for his outstanding dedication to our organization,” said ALEC National Chairman Noble Ellington (LA). “Joel Anderson is to be commended for his leadership, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such committed individuals like Joel over the past year.”
The “Legislator of the Year” is a national award given to state legislators who have distinguished themselves by taking a leadership role in advancing, introducing and/or enacting policies based on the fundamental Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty….
“ALEC is an outstanding organization that brings state legislators together to work for advancement of their states,” said Senator Anderson. “I am proud of the work we have done and look forward to continued involvement with ALEC.”
Not that ALEC hasn’t been good for Anderson in many other ways, too. San Diego Reader in March 2013 documented some of those expenditures according to personal financial disclosure reports posted online by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
ALEC came up with $1786 in “reimbursement for air fare, transportation, and meals” for Republican state Sen. Joel Anderson to attend the group’s annual meeting on September 7. ALEC also gave Anderson a total of $692 to attend two other of its meetings earlier in the year
On the other side of the political spectrum, the Environmental Defense Fund forked over $513.43 for Anderson’s “airfare to Chiapas Mexico for meetings with Chiapas State Government.” Another $50 from the group covered “breakfast and lunch.”
The state government of Chiapas came up with $895 to cover the Republican’s meals and lodging during the trip, from October 4 through 7, according to his report.
It’s the Hard-Knock Life
Anderson introduced Donald Trump at last year’s California Republican Party convention. He came out as an early supporter of the president, and Trump won the 2-1 Republican registration advantaged 38th District by more than 20,000 votes.
Yet Anderson said he’s been vilified for supporting Trump or even talking about immigration and his desire to deport undocumented felons. He said he understands why some of his colleagues are less outspoken.
“Who wants to get the beatdown?” Anderson said. “It’s not like I get extra pay. It’s not like I get more good publicity. I get a beatdown from everyone. But you know what? I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud of the district I represent.”
In September, 2016, Anderson spoke at the La Mesa Chamber breakfast they year where he railed against Senate Bill 654 that would increase parental leave for new parents by six weeks. He also firmly opposed raising the minimum wage. “Minimum wage doesn’t build people,” he said. “It tears down the middle class,” he said.
Anderson cast one of two votes on the seven-member Public Safety Committee against Senate Bill 54 calling for California to be a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants.
“There’s a lot of great arguments on why‘Dreamers’ may be protected,” Anderson said, “but there’s no good argument to keep child molesters, rapists and murderers in our prisons only to be returned to our community. These people need to be deported.”
Anderson added: “I get the emotion that some of the leadership has towards Trump, but we’re elected not to lead with emotion. We’re elected to lead with common sense.”
California Clean Money Campaign (CCMC) 2016 Clean Money Scorecard on campaign finance reform bills put Anderson at the bottom of the class. Some 74 legislators with yes votes on, or introduction of finance reform measures received scores of 100 or better. Thirty legislators had scored 50 or below. Anderson’s 22 score tied him for fourth lowest on the list.
The American Conservative Union Foundation last month released its annual legislative ratings finding Anderson one of the most conservative representatives in the state. Minimum wage, gun registration, health benefits and scholarships for people living in California illegally, and a cap on campaign contributions were among issues rated.
Anderson was in line with the ACU 94 percent of the time. Overall, state Senators casted 35 percent of their votes in a conservative manner, according to the ACU. Republican senators were 90 percent overall and Democrats 7 percent.
Anderson even endorses the alt-right. He has two columns on Breitbart. In one he rather ironically and humorously in today’s context titled “President Obama. Tear Down This Wall!” It was a rambling discussion of the Berlin Wall as it pertained to the National Security Agency (NSA). Go figure. The other Breitbart column discussed the NSA in light of Richard Nixon and Benjamin Franklin. Don’t ask.