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D.C. trip expenses put Assembly candidate Allard on hot seat with tax watchdog

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Hotel room costs and claims for meals have a 4th District Assembly candidate at odds with a taxpayers group just as voters are receiving their sample ballots. At an average cost of $465 a night, the little-known taxpayers group REVOLT is challenging Assembly candidate John Allard on hotel expenditures paid for by Roseville that the city councilman charged to constituents during a 2007 trip to Washington, D.C. The San Diego-based Responsible Voters for Lower Taxes is also criticizing Allard for what it says appears to be a “double dip” on expenses. That allegation revolves around paperwork from a 2009 trip to Washington showing Allard requested the city’s $64 “per diem” allowance while later reporting on another form that he received free meals during the same time period from several corporate donors. Allard issued a statement describing the allegations as a “desperate attempt to shred my character from a no-name organization based in San Diego, as far away from the 4th Assembly District as you can get in California.” Allard cited the support of the California Republican Assembly and National Tax Limitation Committee President Lew Uhler as evidence that his political record is not suspect. REVOLT issued a statement Tuesday questioning Allard’s expenditures and provided copies of paperwork filed with Fair Political Practices Commission and the City of Roseville to bolster its contention that budget-conscious voters should be concerned about electing him to the Legislature. Copies of the receipts are viewable online at the bottom of this story. Matt Donnellan, the 23-year-old vice president of REVOLT, said the organization making the allegations is looking out for taxpayers and shouldn’t be the focus of attention. He said that he’s a city of San Diego employee and isn’t connected to or paid by the Beth Gaines campaign – seen as a major rival to Allard for the District 4 seat. Last fall, Donnellan worked on the campaign for Republican San Diego City Council candidate Lorie Zapf, serving as a campaign spokesman. Donnellan said the 20-year-old REVOLT group has been reenergized and should be providing grassroots actions like Tuesday’s in other political arenas. Its membership numbers in the high hundreds and includes people in Placer County, Donnellan said. Because it’s a special election, REVOLT could focus its attention on the 4th District race, he said. “John Allard’s record on the city council overseeing taxpayer dollars is frightening,” Donnellan said. A spokesman for the Gaines campaign issued a statement after being sent a copy of the release by REVOLT containing backing documentation. “We have seen the press release from REVOLT and are deeply troubled by John Allard’s apparent disregard for the taxpayer’s money,” Gaines spokesman Cristina Rivera said. “If he treats taxpayers in his own city this way, it certainly raises the question if he can be trusted in the state Legislature.” Allard said that Beth Gaines is the candidate REVOLT should be frightened by, noting her husband – state Sen. Ted Gaines – accepted per diem as a legislator. The Gaineses recently pledged to not take future per diem payments while serving in the Legislature. “I think it is highly suspect this group does not find it frightening that Beth Gaines’ family took $120,000 in unnecessary per diem payments from taxpayers when she lives less than 25 miles from the Capitol,” Allard said. The bill for Allard’s stay from April 20 to April 25, 2007 at The Mayflower in Washington, D.C. shows a total charge to Roseville for $2,330. Roseville officials were not able Tuesday to verify the background materials provided by the Journal to determine if the full amount was approved after the trip. But the initial bill was paid by the city’s credit card account. Three of the nights, the city was charged a total of $548, including tax, for Allard’s room. The other two nights cost a total of $342. REVOLT also provided copies of statements from an April 25-30 2009 trip to Washington, D.C. to back up its “double-dipping” allegation. A “meal per diem” form turned in and signed by Allard was approved in advance of the trip by former City Manager Craig Robinson on March 3, 2009. The form indicates that Allard was paid $384 in a direct deposit to his bank account for six days “per diem” in Washington. A notation states “travel and hotel costs paid by John Allard.” REVOLT’s claim that Allard “double-dipped” comes from an income and gifts declaration he filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission. The “700 form” lists nine meals Allard took part in that he said were paid for by seven businesses and two healthcare providers during the April 2009 Cap-to-Cap trip. Paying for the meals were: Kaiser Permanente of Sacramento ($84); Pacific Gas & Electric of Sacramento ($72); SureWest Communications of Roseville ($72); the Diepenbrock-Harrison law firm of Sacramento ($79); GenCorp of Folsom ($70); Granite Construction Co. of Sacramento ($79); Mercy/Catholic Healthcare West of Rancho Cordova ($79); Sutter Health of Sacramento ($98); and Teichert & Son of Sacramento ($98). There are eight candidates in the 4th Assembly District election – Allard, Gaines, Cheryl Bly-Chester, Matt Williams, Bo Ambrozewicz, Dennis Campanale, Rob Matthews and Michael O’Connor. All but Campanale are Republicans. Election Day is March 8, with the two top finishers going on to a May 3 runoff if no candidate receives a majority of the vote. Sample ballots are now being sent to voters throughout Placer County.