Political organization

She starred in an Anti-Prop. 27 announcement – after his organization received $50,000 from an anti-Prop top. 27 donors

Around the same time a social services provider appeared in an anti-Proposition 27 campaign protesting the measure that would legalize online sports betting, his organization received $50,000 from one of the major backers. in the countryside.

Campaign ethics and law experts say that while no campaign finance laws appear to have been broken, the timing of the San Manuel Mission Indian Band’s donation to Desert Sanctuary, an organization of Barstow, which supports victims of domestic violence and others seeking refuge, raises questions.

On August 8, the tribe – who contributed over $78 million toward defeating Proposition 27 – presented a check for $50,000 to Desert Sanctuary. The tribe posted a photo of Peggi Fries, the organization’s longtime executive director, accepting a giant check from the tribe on its website.

Later that month, the anti-Prop. The December 27 campaign began running an ad featuring a Desert Sanctuary representative, identified as “Peggi,” who says she has worked with homeless people for years. She says Prop. 27, which claims it is “not a solution” to homelessness.

“There is very little left for the homeless,” she says. “Don’t let corporations exploit homelessness to increase their profits.”

The anti prop. The Dec. 27 campaign dismissed concerns that the donation to the organization Desert Sanctuary and Fries’ appearance in the ad were linked, noting that the tribe had donated $160,000 to the nonprofit. lucrative over the past eight years, according to a campaign spokesperson.

“San Manuel’s philanthropic donations over the past decade total more than $300 million,” said Roger Salazar, spokesperson for No on 27. “The tribe is proud to have supported the good work of Desert Sanctuary for the past eight years. Supporting community organizations is a great benefit of tribal-controlled gaming in California. Proposition 27 threatens this tribal model and philanthropy by shipping gaming revenue to corporations outside of California. State by removing the exclusive right to play from the Californian tribes.

Questions about ad space amid the most expensive metrics campaign in California history. Competing factions have raised over $355 million for two ballot measures that will determine whether — and how — to legalize online sports gaming in the state, an industry that could be worth between $3 billion and $4 billion, industry analysts say.

If approved, Proposition 27 would legalize online sports betting in California. One of his main selling points is that 85% of licensing revenue and other fees it generates would go towards homeless housing and mental health services. The rest would go to Indian tribes who will partner with major gaming operators to run the operation, including FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM.

A report of the Office of the Nonpartisan Legislative Analyst said the new tax revenue from the proposal “could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars a year.”

Opponents say the ballot measure exaggerates how much it would help the homeless. Many of those same naysayers support Proposition 26, which would only allow in-person sports betting at the state’s 66 tribal casinos and four qualifying racetracks. The The legislative analyst said that the state could see “tens of millions of dollars a year” in new revenue if it passes.

The anti prop. 27 campaign says more than 50 of California’s 109 Native Tribes oppose Prop. 27.

The San Manuel Mission Indian Band is one of the most prominent tribes opposing Proposition 27, according to the latest campaign financial disclosure statements filed with the secretary of state’s office. The San Manuel Tribe, which operates a casino, is not a Prop. 26 listed endorsers.

Desert Sanctuary was one of eight organizations that received donations that day from the tribe “to provide support through health services, environmental conservation, and cultural development to tribal communities.” according to the tribe’s website. The $400,000 distributed that day came from the tribe’s annual charity golf fundraiser.

“These eight nonprofit organizations are dedicated to improving the lives of so many Native Americans as well as local communities, and we are proud to be in a position where we can help,” said Audrey Martinez, Secretary of the Indian Affairs Committee of the San Manuel Band. statement on the tribe’s website.

Fries is not identified as a paid spokesperson in the ad, which would be legally required if she received money for her appearance.

The No on 27 campaign does not appear to have violated state election law, said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and former chair of the city’s ethics commission.

“I think it’s a situation where, on the face of it, it looks like something nefarious is going on,” Levinson said. “But when you dig deeper, it’s probably just a tribe supporting a group they believe in, Desert Sanctuary, and a rep from that group supporting a cause they believe in and the tribe is coming to as well.”

But without that context, Fries’ appearance may raise questions for viewers of the ad, say legal and ethical experts.

“Did they pay her to say so, or would the money have gone to the Desert Sanctuary anyway?” said Levinson. “Or is it just a way to funnel funds in order to get a really attractive paid spokesperson – without saying ‘paid spokesperson’?”

John Pelissero, senior fellow at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, said, “The problem here is this question of timing. You have money for the domestic violence group, and then a spokesperson for it comes out and says, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to support this.”

Pelissaro said that while the arrangement may be legal, “the ethical issue arises when there is the appearance that ‘something is wrong here’ seems to be on the public’s mind – legitimate concerns about the timing and possible connection between the donation and then what the spokesperson says in opposition to Proposition 27.

Levinson said voters should keep in mind that San Manuel has donated to Desert Sanctuary in the past.

“Voters should be doing what they would otherwise be doing, which is assessing whether or not they want to give credence to Peggi and her views,” she said. “The problem for voters is figuring out who they can trust and why.”

Joe Garofoli is the San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political editor. Email: jgarofoli@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @joegarofoli