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Tustin City Council candidates James Perez and Kurt Bensworth charged in FPPC complaint for months of campaign finance violations

Orange, Calif. —  Tustin City Council candidates James Perez and Kurt Bensworth were charged in an FPPC violation Monday for a series of campaign finance violations. The filed violations include reporting less than a quarter of the money they raised while not fully reporting expenditures, and not reporting to the public untold amounts of campaign expenditures such as Facebook advertisements, lawn signs, websites, and photo shoots.

Although they publicly announced raising nearly $54,000 as of early June, Perez and Bensworth collectively reported just $1,150 raised on their June 30th FPPC disclosure forms, and collectively reported just $13,500 on their September 19th FPPC disclosure forms (link here). Both candidates have purchased lawn signs, hired professional photographers, set up joint websites, and purchased Facebook advertisements — without reporting a cent to the public.

Perez and Bensworths’ committees Treasurer, Ms. Dana Hopkins, has been fined by the FPPC three prior times (FPPC 13/5, 14/402, 14/375) for violations related to campaign contributions and campaign reporting. These latest FPPC charges were submitted by Democratic Party of Orange County Political Director Ajay Mohan; these are the first charges party staff filed regarding Ms. Hopkins’ disclosures.

Regarding the FPPC charges, Chair Ada Briceño stated:

“Tustin deserves better than the old Republican shenanigans that Kurt Bensworth and James Perez represent. Tustin needs honest leaders, especially in these challenging times when so much is on the line.” 

“This isn’t a case of one or two reporting errors. These violations have been going on for months, and might cover the bulk of their raised funds — if we know how much was raised at all. This appears to be a pattern of deceit intended to mislead other candidates and the public, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.”

About the Democratic Party of Orange County

Once famously known as “Reagan country,” after President Reagan called Orange County the place where “all good Republicans go to die,” Orange County is rapidly shifting from a Republican stronghold into a highly diverse Democratic metropolis.

Chair Ada Briceno, a longtime labor organizer, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11, and recently elected Democratic National Committee member, is the first immigrant and second Latina to lead the Democratic Party of Orange County. Her executive leadership team includes Latino, Vietnamese, millennial, and LGBT representation.

Democrats swept all seven Congressional seats in Orange County in 2018. Less than a year later, Democrats overtook countywide voter registration to become the region’s leading political party. Today, OC Democrats have gained more than a 2-point voter advantage over the GOP.

Orange County is the nation’s sixth largest county, with 3.2 million residents and more than half a million registered Democratic voters.

15 Comments

  1. Yvette Martinez Gallegos Yvette Martinez Gallegos October 8, 2020

    Desperate, desperate y desperate. I am very much a Biden fan but your article is truly desperate and sad.

    Interesting that the complaining party is friends with three of the liberals who are running for Tustin Council.

  2. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | October 8, 2020

    Hi Charles. Thinking Liberally Media was acquired a few years ago by my other company duly licensed in Tustin. Paperwork filed. Taxes paid by parent company. That’s why I’m publisher and editor. Thanks for your time and interest

  3. Bill Strohler Bill Strohler October 8, 2020

    You do realize Bensworth and Perez are not Republican. They are two of the few candidates who are putting the people of Tustin first over a big corporation like Costco Gas. The Republicans running and Democrats running for Tustin City Counil, except for Lee Fink are in agreement with the decision to have a 32 pump Costco Gas station added to the El Camino Real Costco. Increasing traffic and pollution. Has anyone been to the Costco in the District lately? I’m sure Costco will make quite a bit of money but the people of Tustin need City Council members that represent the citizens best interests and not Costco’s.

  4. Bill Strohler Bill Strohler October 9, 2020

    You do realize Bensworth and Perez are not Republican. They are two of the few candidates who are putting the people of Tustin first over a big corporation like Costco Gas. The Republicans running and Democrats running for Tustin City Counil, except for Lee Fink are in agreement with the decision to have a 32 pump Costco Gas station added to the El Camino Real Costco. Leticia Clarke even voted for it and Beckie Gomez said she supported it on a virtual Tustin City Council candidate forum. This will increase traffic and pollution for the people living in Tustin Ranch. Has anyone been to the Costco in the District lately? I’m sure Costco will make quite a bit of money but the people of Tustin need City Council members that represent the citizens best interests and not Costco’s.

  5. Denise Berg Denise Berg October 9, 2020

    These candidates do not follow any party lines. They are running for office to represent the people of Tustin, not the DNC or the Republican Party.

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | October 9, 2020

      no where in Thursday’s post were these two identified as Republican

      • Christina bellamontes Christina bellamontes October 9, 2020

        The story dan released say they were CHARGED? For the sake of your penniless wallet Dan I certainly hope that is accurate. The person that lodged the complaint just so happens to be mutual friends on Facebook with three of the liberal candidates running for Council and wow, what a shocker, your a socialist lib too

        • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | October 9, 2020

          I suggest you open up their campaign filings which are posted in the story. Also, to say they are not Republicans is interesting given their signs are everywhere you see Trump stuff.

          • Bill Strohler Bill Strohler October 9, 2020

            They are independent. For some reason people can’t seem to think past the two parties. I support them and Katie Porter and if we were allowed to have yard signs I’d have Katie Porter, Lee Fink and Perez and Bensworth signs. Would that make them Democrat?

        • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | October 9, 2020

          I edited that sentence. You realize you’re reading “The Liberal OC” and you’re shocked I’m a liberal?

      • Bill Strohler Bill Strohler October 9, 2020

        Dan Chmielewski
        POST AUTHOR | OCTOBER 9, 2020
        no where in Thursday’s post were these two identified as Republican.

        Except here.

        Regarding the FPPC charges, Chair Ada Briceño stated:

        “Tustin deserves better than the old Republican shenanigans that Kurt Bensworth and James Perez represent. Tustin needs honest leaders, especially in these challenging times when so much is on the line.”

  6. Magaly S Magaly S October 9, 2020

    Your headline clearly says “CHARGED” with and that is inaccurate. Who cares about Ada Briceno? Who is she anyway, noone cares about her pathetic comments. She makes latinas look stupid.

  7. Guy Ball Guy Ball October 13, 2020

    Dan –

    Come on. Your headline and first paragraph are pretty damning of the candidates. And later in your response to the candidates you note ” The post in question was a headline and press release provided by the Democratic Party of Orange County; they are responsible for the content and the headline.”

    Are you a journalistic site pointing out all the crap going on in OC or are you the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party which is run by people who want to win however they can? (And the Republican Party is no better, but the Dems have a lot more to lose these days.)

    I don’t have a stake in this council election – I’m in county territory so I can’t vote for these candidates. But I really have an issue with the blatant fabrications and BS that both parties use to promote their candidates and propositions.

    I notice the original post has not been updated to give full credit to the DPOC press release and not the actual FPPC findings. Do you have to be a part of this or can’t you be a bit more honest than the political power brokers in their smoke-filled rooms?

    Guy

  8. Tustin Truth Tustin Truth October 14, 2020

    The Tustin Race is A Joke: 
Tustin needs the party politics out and true candidates that are for Tustin. Not these Dem-Repubic hacks who keep their machine humming along. This city needs union money out, individual campaign contributions set to $250, no PAC money, you cannot fund your campaign (YOU KNOW NOBODY WANTES  YOU!!!), and outside influences out. Tustin don’t vote these hacks in.  LISTENING TO these guys who all have faults is pure democrat bs. This is the GODs TRUTH. 

WE ARE THE SILENT MAJORITY THAT WANTS THESE PEOPLE OUT! WHY IS PLANNED PARENTHOOD AND TUSTIND PD AND FIRE AUTHORITY FUNDING THESE CANDIDATES! BECAUE THEY ARE BUYING RAISES AND CONTRACTS! FIGHT IT! 


    Lee Fink – Who? He claims he has lived here forever. What have you DONE for Tustin in the last five years? You just came on the spot out of nowhere and raised all your Demacrook money. Over 100k and counting, please let me know how you plan on spending all that money on votes. The thought is sickening, WAKE UP TUSTIN. You want this sick progressive building Rainbow huts for the homeless everywhere?  SPEND MONEY AND LOSE. LOSER



    Beckie Gomez – Can she retire already? Besides 8 total signs around town, we are going to endure 8 more years of her. Legacy and everyone e remembers that YOU DON’T CARE FOR OUR CHILDREN. YOU NEVER DID! DON’T VOTE FOR HER! SPEND MONEY AND LOSE. 


    Letitia Clark – She says she balanced budgets and saved our city. What did you do for four years? Just another Democrat hack that thinks she is a winner. Take that UNION MONEY AND MOVE TO YOUR NEXT POST. Yawn!

    AJ JAH – Guy ran and FORGOT all his friends. His beloved TPD also abandoned him because he SUCKS. NOW HE HAS NO FRIENDS. GO BACK TO THE PLANNING COMMISSION AND DO NOTHING FOR NOBODY. POLITICS FOR BIG BOYS – GO CRY IN THE CORNER. 


    Ryan Gallagher – Who? Another Loser Like Austin. SPEND MONEY AND LOSE. ANOTHER entitled loser.

    JUDGE Jorge – Who? ANOTHER LOSER! SPEND MONEY AND LOSE. 


    Cris  – Who? HE SHOULD OF JOINED THE TICKET WITH JAMES AND Kurt! TO WIN FOR TUSTIN!

    WHO ARE THESE GUYS JORGE/RYAN don’t vote for these entitled goons WHO WANT TO REPRESENT YOU. THEY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT TUSTIN OR YOU. ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS NOT BUILDING A HOMELESS SHELTER IN THE LEGACY. JUST CARE FOR THE NICE PART.

  9. The Red Hill The Red Hill October 14, 2020

    The democrats are in the business for running for office and winning. When they identify a group of idiots running for office who don’t follow the rules, the party pays attention, screenshots, and documents everything. There is a reason all these allegations are coming to light. The FPCC is black and white on how elections and campaigns are supposed to be run.I don’t believe Mr. Bensworth and Perez have any idea of what they are doing.They are running this campaign with no sort of planning or idea what so ever.Who is their Political Consultant? According to social media, it seems like Barry Cooper, who, according to the FPPC, couldn’t even file his campaign reporting on time (see below). Nobody investigated him then (who knows what he did back then), so they are probably up to their tricks again. Do they even understand the technicalities of running for office in California? HELL NO.

    You can not go on Facebook and state you have raised 55k and then have nothing to show for it. If you are lying now, who knows what you will lie about when you hold public office (for Tustin, I hope you don’t hold any office). Who will believe the non-sense that your money fell through even if it existed? It is probably a good reason
    those donors didn’t waste money donatingto your campaign. ALSO, WHO WOULD DONATE THAT AMOUNT OF MONEY TO YOUR CAMPAIGN? The belief that these guys can change things finally. What are they going tochange, campaign finance law? The worst thing is they are making an insult tothe rules and procedures people seeking public office have to follow. Great job, Dan, don’t give up. These guys use the threat of legal action to silence their stupidity. Funny, this sounds like a guy in the White House. This group of miscreants is the worst thing that has happened to Tustin in the near-decade and the community wasting one vote on them is one vote wasted. Don’t believe in false promises of people who can “change” the system. The system is way too big to be changed, and the current system of city government is operated in a manner that these idiots could never understand.

    Facts are facts. I will not believe some half-written pressrelease alleging fake news and Mr. Bensworth’s expertise in running “team” campaigns. When the FPCC reviews the data and fines will be levied, we are talking about substantial penalties. Unfortunately, it will take months to see what happens with this, and by then, people will have moved on. People that are defending these idiots, please take a deep breath and take a look at yourself in the mirror and evaluate your life choices. I blame people for not running And letting these people get involved because Tustin finds itself in this situation.

    FPPC Action: In the Matter of Cooper for Council 2018, Barry Cooper, andGary Crummitt; FPPC No. 19/325. Staff: Chief of Enforcement Galena West andPolitical Reform Consultant Chloe Hackert. Barry Cooper was a successful candidate for Tustin City Council on November 6, 2018, General Election. Cooperfor Council 2018 is his candidate-controlled Committee. Gary Crummitt is theCommittee’s treasurer. The Committee, Cooper, and Crummitt failed to reportexpenditure information on a pre-election campaign statement for the reportingperiod of September 23, 2018, through October 20, 2018, in violation ofGovernment Code Section 84211 (1 count). Fine: $230.

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