ZOOM/VENTURA – “County Board of Supervisors – Agenda Item #50 – Rescinding the current limit on campaign donations” (Second hearing March 28, 10:30 am) Ventura Co. Government Center, 800 S. Victoria Avenue
Post updated 3/27/23
Read this!: https://www.ojaivalleynews.com/news/breaking-county-supervisors-vote-3-2-to-repeal-county-campaign-contribution-limits/article_c709f15c-c293-11ed-b23f-7784f0c060d4.html
Supervisors Gorell, Long and Parvin, the three “conservative” members of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors DID vote for a second hearing to rescind the current limit on campaign donations, opening the door further to undue influence of big money donors. (Here’s their first letter. There were too many stupid things in it, so here’s their second try.)
Shame on them!
On March 14th, agenda item noted as #44 was squeezed between two proclamation ceremonies – a letter to the editor by Assemblyman Steve Bennett was all the warning we got about this destructive action that could wipe out 20 years of election reform.
GET READY! SECOND PUBLIC HEARING IS ON TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2023 AT 10:30 A.M.
Public comments and letters will be taken in as usual, but we need more people in the seats, as well!
Now called Agenda Item #50. Second Public Hearing Regarding Adoption of an Ordinance of the County of Ventura Repealing the Ventura County Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance.
- Go here for instructions for public particpation and to attend by ZOOM. Pre-registration to comment is encouraged – you can pre-register.
- Submit email comments to email@example.com w/ copy to Supv Vianey Lopez at Vianey.Lopez@ventura.org by NOON the day prior to the meeting (Monday). Indicate in the Subject Line the Agenda item number (e.g., Item No. 50) on which you are commenting. Your email or written comment will be distributed to the Board of Supervisors and placed into the item’s record of the Board meeting. Public Comments submitted in writing are public records and subject to disclosure.
- Read the AB571 Fact Sheet, the Board Letter, and comments already submitted here under “Item Attachments.”
An example of what you might send – edit this to match your own voice:
“Clerk of the Board, Agenda Item 50.
Money can swing elections, it’s why we support campaign donation limits. To rescind current limits is to turn our backs on the democratic process of free and fair elections—where money is not the deciding factor.
Supv Gorell’s and Supv Parvin’s proposal attempts to benefit Supv Long’s next election—where she meets stiff resistance throughout her district, especially in NE Oxnard. Supv Long voted to expand drilling at a site adjacent to Lemonwood, a neighborhood already suffering from toxic impacts of oil extraction. Oil and other special interests must be prohibited from the unlimited ability to buy elections for their chosen candidates.
Please reject Agenda Item 44, a proposal that defies the democratic process. Support fair and balanced elections where special interest money is not allowed to buy the outcome. It must be forbidden.”
This is from Todd Collart
LTE VC REPORTER
Ventura County residents were the victims of a hit and run on March 14th. The County’s Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance was “smashed” that day, but on March 28th the guilty party will declare the Ordinance “totaled” after a final vote by Supervisors Gorell, Parvin and Long to repeal the Ordinance.
The summarized purpose of the Ordinance was to “Promote public trust in Government institutions and the election process, (and) reduce the appearance of corruption and prevent individuals and organizations from using their financial strength to corrupt Ventura County government….”
While voting for the Ordinance’s repeal, the three supervisors did not explain how doing so would further its purpose. Their first stated rationale for repealing the Ordinance was that since 33 of 58 counties did not have such ordinances Ventura County did not need one either. Their remaining rationale were no less persuasive.
The broad purpose of all campaign finance regulations and the purpose specifically cited in the current version of the Ventura County’s 2003 Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance can be seen at:https://www.ventura.org/county-executive-office/clerk-of-the-board/campaign-finance-reform/
Paraphrased it is to “Promote public trust in Government institutions and the election process (and) Reduce the appearance of corruption and prevent individuals and organizations from using their financial strength to corrupt Ventura County government….”
On March 14th Supervisors Gorell and Parvin presented a proposal to repeal the Ordinance. Despite the flimsy rationale, a majority of the Supervisors (Gorell, Parvin and Long) voted to repeal the County’s Ordinance. Before the repeal is finalized, a second vote must be taken on March 28th following a public hearing tentatively scheduled for 10:30 am.
The first rationale offered for repealing the Ordinance, was that 56% of counties do not have their own ordinances and rely on State campaign law. This rationale puts Ventura County in the company of Shasta County – now run by election deniers.
The process was disingenuous:
1) There was no explanation of how repealing the Ordinance would further public trust in government institutions and the election process, or minimize the appearance of money corruption; 2) No direct comparison between the County and State regulations was presented so the public could readily assess the value of repealing the local ordinance; 3) The comparatively loose state contribution limits were not mentioned ($5500 vs $750); 4) There was no input from the standing Campaign Finance Commission; 5) There were no prior public workshops on this major policy shift; 6) Plausible grounds for updating the Ordinance were raised, but practical amendments to it were not offered, only its repeal; and 7) Despite his claim that the Ordinance unfairly constrains campaigns, Supervisor Gorell’s campaign raised $422,256 and spent $432,364 (see his filed 460 fppc form).
BASIC REASONS TO OPPOSE REPEALING THE EXISTNG CAMPAIGN FINANCE ORDINANCE
1. Repealing the existing ordinance is completely contrary to the purpose of campaign finance controls, and good government. Repealing the Ordinance would undermine public trust and invite more corrupting money into the election process.
2. The proponents are surrendering local control on a major issue to the State. This not in keeping with the independently minded citizens of Ventura County. What happens when special interests mount a referendum to overturn some, or all the State campaign finance regulations and the County is left without any controls? By example, The Oil industry spent $20 million (LA Times Editorial 3-21-23) to qualify a referendum to overturn state legislation and spent some $7 million in a 2022 referendum that overturn adopted County Zoning Ordinances.
3. The proponents did not campaign on this issue when they ran for office, so the public did not know it was electing a new BOS majority that would suddenly decide to repeal the County Ordinance, undermining the credibility of local elections and officials. Constituents might have voted differently had they known.
4. The proposal is not a fair and impartial report on the pros and cons for repealing the County ordinance and relying solely on the State laws. NO point-by-point comparison of the two sets of regulations was prepared or presented in the public hearing. Consequently, the public could not fairly judge the merits of repealing the existing ordinance.
5. The written proposal was deceptive. While saying the State law has campaign contribution limit, it did point out that it was $5500 per person, compared to the current County limit of $750. Additionally, the proposal did not mention the current Ordinance has a voluntary limit on campaign expenditures that is stricter than the State’s voluntary expenditure limits.
6. Rather than proposing practical reforms that would cure some of the proponents’ objections with the current ordinance, the proponents opted to discard it entirely.
7. The BOS often empanels interested parties to work with County staff to hash out solutions to identified problems and send recommendations to the BOS for consideration. This approach was taken by the prior BOS relative to increasing oil well financial sureties. Such a collaborative approach could still be taken in lieu of summarily repealing the Ordinance.
8. “One size fits all” regulatory approaches are frequently condemned, but not in the subject proposal. Accepting the State contribution limit of $5500 per person applies to supervisorial districts regardless of the number of constituents in them: Ventura County – some 170,000 constituents; Alpine County 247 constituents; and Los Angeles County – over 2 million constituents. A suitable contribution limit for different sized jurisdictions is logical, but not one limit for all of them if the Ordinance is repealed.
9. A cursory review of the Ordinance and related state campaign regulations reveals how complex the issue is. The County Ordinance has a myriad of different safeguards in it to promote public trust. Abandoning these without confirming they also exist in State law is really proceeding blindly with the proposed repeal of the Ordinance.
10. There was seemingly no attempt to seek input from the standing Campaign Finance Reform Commission that has oversight responsibilities relative to the Ordinance. No comments from the Commission were included in the proponent’s proposal.
11. Upholding and promoting the lofty and logical purpose for campaign financial regulations was never cited by the proponents. They did not explain why this overarching purpose would be furthered by repealing the Ordinance. Absent rational grounds, why does the majority of the Board want to repeal the Ordinance and undermine public trust in elections and reduce the appearance of monetary corruption of our local leaders?
PROPONENT’S RATIONALE FOR REPEALING THE ORDINANCE IN THE ORDER OF THEIR APPEARANCE
1. A majority of jurisdictions (56% of the Counties and 62% of the cities) utilize the State campaign finance laws instead of local ordinances. Using this logic, if a majority of jurisdictions did something patently stupid, Ventura County should do the same. That makes no sense and yet it is the first rationale offered for repealing the Ordinance. It should be noted that most of larger counties in the State have their own campaign ordinances https://www.fppc.ca.gov/the-law/local-ordinances.html
These jurisdictions are the peers the County should be bench-marking itself against, not tiny rural counties such as Shasta, now run by election deniers.
2. The County ordinance is “redundant, unnecessary bureaucracy to State law”. Is the County Ordinance “redundant” because it has a $750 campaign contribution limit while the State limit is $5500? Is the County ordinance redundant because it has a stricter voluntary campaign expenditure limit than the State?
3. The State’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is better staffed and funded to monitor campaign regulations than the County, so the County would be better served by abandoning its own regulations and leave the matter entirely in the state’s hands. Eliminating the expense of local regulatory oversight in exchange for dramatically less stringent regulations is a poor trade off. The County should better fund its existing monitoring program or opt into a shared monitoring program with other jurisdictions that do not wish to surrender campaign finance regulation to the State’s lower standards.
4. “Because of low limits , independent expenditure committees are formed by members of the public…because candidate committees cannot fundraise what is needed to effectively reach the constituency in their district….” Costs to run a campaign have undoubtedly risen, but no inflationary adjustment was suggested to correct this alleged problem. Whatever an appropriate adjustment to the current contribution limit might be, it would less than the 7-fold increase over the current limit the proponents advocate ($5500
: $750 = 7.333).
Interestingly, the two proponents just won election under the current low limits, proving the point that the Ordinance’s limits still allow its detractors to win elections. Independent Expenditure Committees (Political Action Committees – PACs) were not allowed until seven years after the County Ordinance was approved, so how likely is it that the Ordinance precipitated PACs?
Raising candidate contribution limits will not deter PACs from raising and spending unlimited amounts of money. Candidates can never raise more funds than a committed PAC. Raising the limit on contributions to candidates only allows more corrupting money into the electoral system while doing nothing to curb PACs.
5. The current donation cap is “abnormally low” and does not provide “…the capacity to pay workers a livable wage.” Paving the way for livable wages for campaign workers is commendable, but shouldn’t the BOS be doing this for a wider array of every-day workers, perhaps by raising the minimum wage in the County? Thank goodness the state (and thus the County) did not default to using the Federal Minimum wage rate ($7.25/hr), which is not a “livable wage”.
Supervisor Gorell emphasized the low financial limits in the Ordinance make it difficult to mount a modern campaign, but how limiting is the Ordinance if he his recent campaign raised $422,256 and spent $432,364 (see his filed 460 fppc form on the following page).
6. State law sets a donation limit to Supervisors of $250 if a Supervisor is hearing a matter involving the donor within 12 months of receiving said donation. This “pay to play” provision in State law is helpful, but is not a logical rationale for allowing $5500 contributions to candidates. What would be more influential: a $5500 contribution from 13 months previously or a $250 contribution an hour before a decisive hearing? Furthermore, the County Ordinance could be amended to incorporate a stricter pay to play provision than the State has.
7. If the County ordinance is repealed, County office holders (supervisors, sheriff, Assessor, etc.) “…will instead be subject to all the campaign limits and restrictions that were enacted by
AB 571….” (the state campaign laws.) County elected officials are already subject to all the applicable state campaign laws that are equal or more restrictive than the current County ordinance. This rationale implies the state law is more restrictive when it is not.
8. “Elimination of redundant, bureaucratic red tape in the interest of consistency with the State’s established law is in the best interest of the voters and transparency of political campaigns.” Ralph Waldo Emmerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Opting for consistency with looser State campaign financial limits as a rationale for eliminating stricter County regulations is foolish.
OTHER RATIONALE OFFERED DURING THE MARCH 13TH PUBLIC HEARING 1. Updating the county ordinance is too time consuming to keep pace with rising campaign costs. It is easy to include an inflation provision in the Ordinance that raises the cap on contributions and
expenditures each election cycle in accordance with some standard inflation factor such as the CPI. The current Ordinance Sec. 1265c allows the County Clerk to annually adjust the expenditure limits using the CPI. Perhaps comparable language could be added to provide for automatic adjustments to contribution limits. Not attempting to update the ordinance and then criticizing it for being outdated is not a sound rationale for repealing it wholesale.
2. “I feel it is my right to give a candidate more money than the current $750 limit.” This sort of sentiment erodes public trust in government institutions and leads the public to believe that money buys political favors. Public trust in government is at a new low, so now is not a good time to relax measures that help retain the public’s confidence in elections and elected officials.
3. If one wants to track campaign financial reports it is alleged this is too difficult for the average person to do because they would need to check the County and State systems. There is no “one stop shop” for all campaign finance monitory, so the proponents voted to eliminate one of the two reporting systems (the County Ordinance). Modern websites readily link users to other related sites. For example the fppc has a link to the County Ordinance. Could this not be done on the County’s campaign reporting website so viewers would have a ready link to the State financial reports and vice versa?
4. Low campaign contribution limits could be challenged in court. Supervisor Gorell opined at length during the public hearing on the supposed constitutional deficiencies of the County Ordinance without suggesting possible remedies. Neither did he invite County Counsel to offer a legal commentary on any legal deficiencies. If Supervisor Gorell is correct, why not attempt to remedy said deficiencies instead of eliminating the entire Ordinance?
Read Assemblymember Bennett’s comment here.
Guest column: Don’t let supervisors eliminate campaign contribution limit law
Sun, Mar 12, 2023, 4:41 PM PDT 3 min read
For the last 20 years Ventura County has had one of the most effective campaign reform laws in the state of California.
While we have not eliminated the influence of big money in our county elections, we have significantly limited it. We empowered local citizens’ voices in elections by limiting campaign contributions to $750.
The law also has strict requirements for accountability and transparency to reduce the manipulations by big money donors attempting to get around the law. Importantly, the law has campaign expenditure limits that increase the likelihood that a grassroots funded candidate can compete.
Your small contribution can still make a difference in Ventura County.
On Tuesday, Supervisors Jeff Gorell and Janice Parvin are proposing to eliminate the county’s campaign finance ordinance and all of its protections. Most disturbing, contribution limits would rise from the $750 local limit to the $5,500 statewide limit.
Gorell and Parvin’s stated rationale for repeal is that the local ordinance is not needed any longer since the state limits now apply to local candidates. Their logic simply does not hold water.
Allowing the limits for donations to grow from $750 to $5,500 for county supervisor races is not good government for Ventura County. One couple will be able to give $11,000.
The average citizen’s voice will be drowned out by big money donors. Connection to those donors rather than grassroots supporters will be the focus of far too many county candidates.
Big money interests have consistently fought against campaign contribution limits. Why? Because, in spite of what politicians claim, large campaign contributions buy influence. The larger the better.
Gorell and Parvin unconvincingly state in their letter that influence buying will not be an issue because a new state law states you cannot vote on a project if you have received a donation of more than $250 from an interested party in the previous 12 months. Imagine how easy it is to get around that restriction.
Make your big contribution early in a candidate’s election cycle, even well before they are elected, and then be sure your project or issue arises 12 months after your donation. Easy to do.
They claim the expenditure limits are too low for a campaign. They could simply raise the expenditure limits and keep the local ordinance working in tandem with the state law. But instead they eliminate local control altogether.
They imply that state law and the local county law cannot both apply simultaneously yet that is exactly what 25 counties in California currently do, including Ventura County. If you care about decreasing the influence of big money in politics, you should support lower state contribution limits and continue the benefits of having the restrictions of both state and local laws in effect in Ventura County.
Simply put, the arguments for repealing our important campaign ordinance are so weak that they raise skepticism. They certainly do not hold up to a logical analysis. Most importantly, they do not reflect the standards and values we have set for ourselves for the last two decades in Ventura County.
Most of our citizens have valued making Ventura County a special place in California, far better than the state average. We are better at stopping urban sprawl, better at limiting the influence of big money in politics, better at enhancing the influence of the average citizens over special interests and better at protecting the most disadvantaged because we have reduced the influence of those most inclined to ignore them.
Repealing our current law, removing the $750 contribution limit, reducing transparency and ending the expenditure limits will significantly increase the amount of money flowing into county supervisors’ campaigns. It will give big rollers much more direct influence on Supervisors.
For 20 years we have significantly decreased the influence of big money in our elections for county supervisor. It all could be lost by three votes Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in the Ventura County Board of Supervisors hearing room.
Please attend and speak if you can. If not please send an email to the Clerk of the Board stating your opposition. Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Bennett is a California Assemblymember representing the 38th District. Linda Parks is the Executive Director of SOAR and former Ventura County Supervisor.
This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Gorell, Parvin trying to eliminate campaign contribution limit law
- Minutes from March 14 meeting – documents for item #44.
- Ventura County Election code
- including comment letters,
- fact sheet on contribution limits for city and county candidates,
- Board letter from Gorell and Parvin,
- handout from meeting
- The Political Reform Act
- (FPPC) CA Fair Political Practices Commission
- City and County Candidates in Cities and Counties That Have Not Enacted Limits*
- Contribution Limits: City and County Candidates (AB571)
- California Fair Political Practices Commission California State Contribution Limits 2023-2024
- Campaign Rules
- Independent Expenditure Committees Campaign Disclosure Manual 6
- State Contribution Limits and Voluntary Expenditure Ceilings
- County of Ventura Public Portal for Campaign Finance Disclosure
- (Local Campaign Ordinances – Indivisible contribution limitations)
- Alameda: $20,000 per election.
- Contra Costa: $2,500/per election cycle
- Fresno: $30,000/per election
- Humboldt County: $1,500
- Kern: $500
- Los Angeles:
- $300.00 – $1,500./ No candidate or his or her controlled committee shall solicit or accept a total amount exceeding $150,000.00 for each primary election campaign and $150,000.00 for each general election campaign, from all political action committees, other than controlled committees or a political party, combined.
- No political party shall make to any candidate or any candidate’s controlled committee, and no candidate or his or her controlled committee shall solicit or accept, any contribution from any political party which exceeds $6,500.00 for each primary election campaign and $6,500.00 for each general election campaign.
- Merced: $4,900
- Orange: $2,000
- San Diego: $500
- San Francisco: $500
- San Mateo: $1,000
- Santa Clara: $500/voluntary expenditure ceilings
- Santa Cruz: $400
- Sonoma: $3500
- Ventura: $750- Expenditure limits/Election cycle,
- San Jose: $500