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May 18, 2014

State delays investigation into Soria’s campaign for Merced sheriff

An investigation into a Merced County sheriff candidate Jim Soria’s failure to disclose campaign donations on time is on hold until at least July 1, the state Fair Political Practices Commission confirmed late last week.

An investigation into Merced County sheriff candidate Jim Soria’s failure to disclose campaign donations on time is on hold until at least July 1, the state Fair Political Practices Commission confirmed late last week.

Soria, 45, missed the March 24 disclosure deadline by more than a month and said he only became aware of the failure to file when contacted by the Merced Sun-Star. Soria confirmed he had been raising money, “about $2,000,” and spending, despite the missing paperwork.

The commission confirmed plans to investigate the failure, but said Friday that state law prohibits them from investigating a candidate during a campaign.

“There’s a regulatory reason for the delay,” said Jay Wierenga, a commission spokesman. “The Political Reform Act says we’re not to open a case against a campaign committee until after the candidate’s election cycle ends.”

Those rules are about to change for future candidates.

The new law was signed in April by Gov. Jerry Brown. It allows the commission to investigate suspected campaign-finance violations before election days, according to Common Cause, a nonpartisan lobbyist organization that supported the bill’s passage.

The law takes effect July 1.

Wierenga said the investigation into Soria’s campaign is on hold until Soria is no longer a candidate for sheriff.

The commission has said that campaigns that fail to file the paperwork generally face a potential warning or fines, depending on the commission’s findings.

The Soria for Sheriff campaign submitted the legally required documents April 29, according to Merced County Elections Office records, more than a month late.

Soria has said he underwent emergency surgery near the deadline. He has not elaborated on the nature of the procedure, but said he has since recovered. Soria also said his campaign manager was out of town near the time of the deadline.

The next financial disclosure deadline is Thursday.

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