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California elections watchdogs have fined a former Orange County assemblyman $100,000 for using campaign funds to cover myriad personal costs — including family vacations, his children’s cellphone bills and $2,400 worth of clothing — in violation of state law.

The decision this month from the Fair Political Practices Commission concluded a four-year-long investigation into the expenses of William Brough, a Republican who served three terms in the California Assembly representing the Dana Point area. The FPPC, which oversees candidates and campaign finances, found multiple discrepancies in the reports from Brough’s 2018 and 2020 campaign committees.

Brough used a total of $17,303 in campaign funds for personal expenses and failed multiple record-keeping requirements, even as his campaign treasurer warned him about violations, according to the FPPC’s report.

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“I need all of your receipts ASAP — you’ve gone mad with the [credit] card use and I have one silly receipt for every ten expenses,” treasurer JenEve Slater wrote to Brough in 2018, the FPPC investigation found.

The unusually large FPPC fine is the latest allegation of misconduct against Brough, who was accused of sexual harassment by four women in 2019, prompting Orange County Republicans to call for him to not run for reelection. Brough said in a phone interview with The Times Tuesday that he is no longer in electoral politics, though he works as a political consultant and lobbyist.

In the case of the FPPC’s campaign finance investigation, Brough initially agreed to a payment plan for a $47,000 penalty. But after making a payment of $7,500 in April, according to the filing, he stopped making payments. Brough said he stopped making payments in order to enter into a settlement with the FPPC and make the investigation stop.

“It went on and on for four years,” he said. “I just wanted to go on with my life.”

The commission responded by more than doubling the penalty amount, levying the maximum fine for the charges. In a public meeting last week recommending Brough’s fine, FPPC chairman Richard Miadich increased the fine from a recommended $90,000 to $100,000 and made the unusual motion to direct staff “to make this a priority matter for collections purposes and to pursue any and all means at your disposal to ensure we recover the full measure of this default.”

The FPPC filing said Brough failed to complete proper expense records for more than 140 meals, ranging in prices from $100 to $3,738 for a total of more than $53,000.

Brough also spent campaign money on personal trips, including a stay at a tony hotel in Boston and a Red Sox game. Brough said the Boston trip was a stop on his way to Ireland for a legislative trip and questioned why he was being punished for paying for it with campaign funds.

“The FPPC said I couldn’t have done it because it wasn’t part of the itinerary of the Irish Caucus trip,” Brough said Tuesday. “But if I was with a colleague and we were in Boston and I went out to dinner with a colleague, I could’ve absolutely used the campaign money.”

Another international trip brought Brough to the Netherlands for an Internet Marketing Assn. conference. After attending a two-hour conference, which ended with tastings at a local bar, Brough spent several days touring the area, according to the documents.

“Investigation revealed that Brough was visiting the region with his wife, for her birthday — and he asked the IMA if he could stop by … while he was in the area,” the FPPC document said.

In another instance, the FPPC reported that Brough used campaign funds to purchase a $1,300 custom cigar humidor, a custom bourbon barrel bar cabinet, a portable ice maker and a compact refrigerator, which he listed as office expenses but then took home when he left the Assembly.

The FPPC investigation began in 2019, after conservative political consultant Aaron Park filed a complaint, alleging that the politician had used campaign funds to pay for a trip to Boston with his family to attend a Red Sox game, as well as other extravagant spending.

Park told The Times on Tuesday that he had initially helped Brough get elected but soon came to change his mind about the assemblyman once he heard allegations about campaign finance impropriety as well as sexual assault allegations.

Brough was stripped of his committee assignments in the Legislature in 2020, after a state investigation found that he had made unwanted advances on several women, including an Orange County supervisor.

Park began digging into Brough’s financial history and, after 20 hours of research, filed a complaint with the FPPC.

“I’m seeing stuff on his social media like the Red Sox game that he went to, and it corresponds to campaign expenditures and stuff like that out of his controlled accounts,” Park said. “I’m going, there’s no way in hell that’s a campaign expense.”

A political watchdog, Park said he has filed many complaints to the FPPC over the years, but this “by far was the largest penalty I’ve ever seen.”


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