The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians must pay a $15,000 fine after the state Fair Political Practices Commission ruled Monday that the tribe failed to timely file 15 lobbyist employer disclosure reports.

According to the state’s campaign finance watchdog agency, the tribe has been a lobbyist employer since 1995 and is required by California’s Political Reform Act of 1974 to file disclosure reports of lobbyist payments and activities. The tribe employed Frank Molina of Strategic Solutions, a lobbying firm in California, from January 2007 through December 2010.

“Failing to file lobbyist employer disclosure statements is a serious violation of the Act, as it violates one of its central purposes, that the activities of lobbyists should be regulated and their finances disclosed in order that improper influences will not be directed at public officials,” the FPPC report reads. “The public harm inherent in these violations is that the public is deprived of important and timely information from (the tribe) regarding the amounts and nature of lobbying activity.”

In all, the tribe spent $312,000 “for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action,” the report read. The tribe avoided the maximum penalty of $70,000 because it had no history of violating the Act and cooperated with the agency’s investigation.

Earlier this year, Molina ran afoul of the state’s ethics commission when he and his firm failed to file lobbying reports for another tribe, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which operates a large casino near San Bernardino. The lobbyist was slapped with a $30,000 fine.

Molina, who worked in the state Legislature for nearly nine years, had no prior history of violating the act, but according to the FPPC, the “Respondents were not very cooperative with the investigation, causing significant delays in obtaining information and compliance with their filing obligations.”

In related news, former Lt. Gov. and Central Coast state senator Abel Maldonado agreed to pay $28,000 for committing 14 campaign violations between 2004 and 2008.

Maldonado – who recently announced he’s running for Congress in 2012 against incumbent Lois Capps –along with Christopher Raymer and Chris Steinbruner, treasurers for his senate campaign, failed to report 18 contributions totaling $721,572 in contributions from 2004 through 2008.

jfoster@syvjournal.com