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Congressman in Prop. 47 overhaul initiative violated campaign finance law, former FEC chair says

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, of Rocklin, a Republican candidate for governor in the Sept. 14 recall election, campaigns for school choice outside a charter school in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Kiley blasted Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for his leadership of the state. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli))
Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) spent congressional funds exceeding the legal limit in an effort to roll back parts of Proposition 47, a complaint from former Federal Election Commission Chair Ann Ravel claims. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The former chair of the Federal Election Commission has filed a complaint against a California congressman, alleging he excessively used campaign funds to support a conservative coalition seeking to roll back parts of Proposition 47.

"I've never seen anything quite this excessive, honestly," Ann Ravel told The Times. She served as chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission in 2011 and as chair of the FEC from 2013 to 2017.

In her FEC complaint, Ravel alleges that the re-election campaign for Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) is closely involved with the tough-on-crime ballot initiative to reform Proposition 47, which reduced some drug and theft felonies to misdemeanors, and has solicited and received funds in excess of the $5,000 legal contribution limit.

Ravel alleges that Kiley’s close involvement with the state ballot committee makes it an extension of his congressional campaign and is subject to the $5,000 contribution limit imposed by the FEC. She alleges that despite those limits, various contributions have been made over $5,000, totaling upwards of several millions of dollars. From his congressional campaign, Kiley has personally spent $28,000 on petitions and mailing costs, according to the complaint, but Ravel alleges that is “likely not the full extent” of the payments made from his congressional account.

A representative for Kiley called the allegations “frivolous” and “false.”

Read more: San Francisco Mayor London Breed backs GOP initiative to stiffen penalties for retail theft

The initiative seeks to "reverse Prop. 47" by increasing penalties for some property crimes and drug offenses. It is supported primarily by conservative groups but also by some Democrats. The deadline for proponents to collect enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot is April 23.

Ravel said Kiley has "long been closely identified with the repeal of Proposition 47," which voters approved in 2014, and has a close relationship with the initiative's sponsor, the coalition California to Reduce Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft.

Read more: Newsom suggests ways to crack down on property crime without dismantling Proposition 47

The coalition has received more than $3 million from corporate retailers, including Walmart, Macy's, Home Depot and Target. One of Kiley's biggest campaign donors is Walmart, according to Ravel's complaint.

Kiley represents California's 3rd District. He previously served in the state Assembly from 2016 to 2022 and was a challenger to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in the failed 2021 recall effort.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.