Last week, Reverge Anselmo donated $200,000 to the Shasta General Purpose Committee, the political action committee that supported the successful recall of Shasta County District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty in early February.
In late February, Anselmo, the Connecticut-based son-of-a-billionaire, donated $180,000 to Liberty Committee, a newly formed PAC that is backing a slate of ultraconservative candidates in the upcoming June 7 primary election.
Counting the $450,000 he donated to SGPC in 2021 and the $110,000 he contributed to Patrick Jones’ successful bid for the District 4 supervisor seat in 2020, Anselmo has given $940,000 — nearly $1 million — to local hard-right political candidates.
For the past three years, he’s been the largest individual donor in local politics. Yet Anselmo has not filed as a major donor as required by the Political Reform Act. Anyone who annually contributes more than $10,000 to political causes and candidates must file a form 461 with the county elections office or the secretary of state.
A search for “Reverge Anselmo” on Shasta County Elections public portal for campaign finance disclosure comes up blank. Based on his nearly $1 million in donations, Anselmo was required to file as a “major donor committee” using form 461 for each of the past three years; the filing is required biannually so there should be five form 461s in the county database. There are none.
Major donors are required to report ongoing contributions within 24 hours on form 497. There are no form 497s for Anselmo in the county’s database.
Anselmo’s donations are high enough to trigger the threshold for mandatory state reporting, but a search for “Reverge Anselmo” on the California Secretary of State’s Cal-Access database also comes up empty.
Shasta County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen said her department first asked the Fair Political Practices Commission for guidance about Anselmo’s donations last year but received little feedback.
“We asked for advice from the FPPC for the first time in April 2021,” she said. “Recently we received an incomplete filing [from Anselmo]. If this filing had been complete, we believe that it should have been filed with the Secretary of State to be displayed on Cal-Access.”
“Staff has asked Lyndia Kent [treasurer for SGPC] both on the phone and in an email to ask Mr. Anselmo to file,” Darling Allen continued. “I believe her verbal response was something like she wasn’t sure how to get them to comply. When we called the phone number on the form, we were hung up on.”
FPPC regulations require recipient committees such as SGPC and Liberty Committee to notify major donors about their responsibility to file.
Anselmo, who could not be reached for comment, is familiar with the major donor filing requirements, since he’s violated them in the past. In 2012, the Fair Political Practices Commission fined him $800 for not registering as a major donor committee after he contributed $44,600 during the election cycle, including $15,000 to Jones’ unsuccessful supervisor bid and $6300 to former Redding City Councilman Rick Bosetti’s failed AD-1 campaign.
That’s around the same time the erstwhile Hollywood B-flick producer’s attempt to develop a 1500-acre cattle ranch, winery and restaurant near Shingletown ran afoul of Shasta County Resource Management. Anselmo failed to secure building permits for many of the structures on the property, including a heliport and a small cathedral, and was hit with numerous code violations. He filed suit, the county counter-sued, and it all ended in tears, with Anselmo paying the county $1 million and scuttling home to Connecticut.
Anselmo’s late father developed the first private satellite network in the 1980s and left the family a $3 billion fortune when he died in the late 1990s. While $1 million may seem like a lot of money to everyday folk, it’s chump change for Anselmo, who in recent years has donated $1.4 million to extreme libertarian Sen. Rand Paul’s Protect Freedom PAC.
Anselmo has made no bones about why he’s spending $1 million on right-wing political candidates in Shasta County. Reverge is out for revenge for his failed winery, as he made clear in Episode 2 of the Red, White and Blueprint’s propagandistic docuseries and in a recent story in the LA Times. It’s no coincidence that most of the candidates offered on the Anselmo/Liberty/RWB ticket are wildly unqualified for the respective offices they seek. It’s by design.
These “patriots” aren’t here to save Shasta County; they’re here to burn it down. They appear to be off to a flying start with the recent firing of Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom by Los Tres Pendejos, even as a wave of Omicron BA.2 surges into the Northstate.
Naturally, the fiction that the Anselmo/Liberty/RWB axis of weasels is some sort of anti-establishment grassroots populist movement and not the sick vendetta of an East Coast son-of-a-billionaire must be maintained. That could be why Anselmo is not filing forms 461 and 497. Without that information, it’s much harder for the public to track where he’s putting his money.
Adding to the public’s confusion is the shell game played by Anselmo, Shasta General Purpose Committee and Liberty Committee. Liberty Committee was ostensibly created to support primary candidates with a $180,000 cash infusion from Anselmo on Feb. 25.
Meanwhile, on March 3, SGPC, created last year to support the recall with a $450,000 cash infusion from Anselmo and flush with a post-recall surplus, donated $220,000 to Liberty Committee.
Try to follow the money.
On May 10, Anselmo donated $200,000 more to SGPC, which hasn’t been as active in the primary election as it was during the recall. On May 11, the very next day, SGPC donated $209,000 to Liberty Committee.
So, who’s funding all those advertisements for Bryan Caples for schools superintendent, Bob Holsinger for county clerk, Erik Jensen for district attorney, Kevin Crye for district 1 supervisor, Chris Kelstrom for District 5 supervisor and John Greene for sheriff?
On paper it appears to be Liberty Committee, whose principal officer is longtime local Tea Party activist Mark Kent. The PAC is pumping tens of thousands of dollars into television, radio and internet advertisements for the above-mentioned candidates.
But in reality, it doesn’t matter if the funds come from Liberty Committee or SGPC. Almost all of it original came from Anselmo. According to FPPC guidelines, Anselmo’s donations are significant enough to require him to be named in virtually all advertisements paid for by Liberty Committee or SGPC.
“If contributions totaling $50,000 or more are made to a recipient committee,” states the FPPC’s manual on major donors, “the name of the top contributor must be included in the committee’s advertisements if the top contributor is one of the three highest contributors to the committee. However, radio and prerecorded telephone ads must disclose only the top two contributors of $50,000 or more unless the ad lasts 15 seconds or less or the disclosure statement would last more than eight seconds, in which case only the single top contributor must be disclosed. Additionally, newspaper, magazine or other print advertisements that are 20 square inches or less must only disclose the single top contributor of $50,000 or more.”
So far, Anselmo hasn’t been named in any of the political ads across all mediums.
While the FPPC couldn’t comment specifically on Anselmo, Communications Director Jay Wierenga explained what penalties could be considered if a major donor failed to report nearly $1 million in campaign donations over a three-year period.
“The basic answer to your question is that any violation of the Political Reform Act can result in a penalty of up to $5,000 per violation, sometimes more if it involves certain advertising expenditures,” he said.
“Penalties in cases are determined based on a myriad of things, mitigating and aggravating factors, including (but not limited to) harm to the public (major harm or relatively minor or not at all), previous violations, sophistication of the parties involved (is it a first-time candidate with no prior violations who is confused about something, or is it a longtime, major organization or candidate who has had many previous campaigns and their campaign should know better?), cooperation or lack thereof, and penalties given to others in similar type cases. All of that (and more) is taken into account when determining a penalty for any given case.”
Wierenga stressed that while the FPPC only pursues civil actions against campaign finance violations, counties and cities have more options at their disposal.
“We enforce the law through administrative and/or civil action, not criminal,” he said. “Any district attorney or the Attorney General’s office may prosecute it as a criminal matter if they so choose.”
With the primary election just weeks away, Shasta Vote, a recently formed PAC that supports Judy Flores for schools superintendent, Cathy Darling Allen for county clerk, Stephanie Bridgett for district attorney, Erin Resner for district 1 supervisor, Baron Browning for district 5 supervisor and Michael Johnson for sheriff, is playing catch-up. Notable donations include $150,000 from Sierra Pacific and $50,000 from the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians in Corning.
That’s less than half the money their opponents have amassed.
So far, the tone of the advertisements has been civil on both sides. Expect that to change as election day nears. Stay tuned. The son-of-a-billionaire from Connecticut may be held accountable yet.