Another campaign finance violation…or just an amazingly good deal on rent?
We shall see! A new election finance complaint was just submitted against Supervisor Gorell.
See the details here!
Action #1: It’s time to write a letter to the Editor
Why in the world would you do this? We have a whole post on that, along with how to contact local news organizations here.
How do I do it? We gathered a lot of examples here to give you good ideas on how to start. Your letters, and their headlines with haunt these greedy and cynical supervisors when they stand for re-election! Links to the two complaints are here: tinyurl.com/gorell-violation
Action #2: Constituents – call your public servants! Hold them to their promises of “public trust”, “transparency” and fighting against corruption!
Minimal phone script for those who live in Districts 2 (Gorell) and 4 (Parvin):
(Not sure of your district? See “Contacts” below)
Hi, my name is [___] and I’m a voter in District [2 – Gorell/4- Parvin]. I understand that Supervisor [Gorell/Parvin] dumped our county’s election finance ordinance on some pretty flimsy arguments. I want [him/her] to know that I expect [him/her] to behave honorably and deal with any and all campaign violations that have filed against them under the conditions of the ordinance they were committed under, no matter how long it takes. We will be watching this issue of public trust carefully. Thank you!
Minimal phone script for those who live in Districts 1 (LaVere), 5 (Lopez):
Hi, my name is [___] and I’m a voter in District [1 – LaVere/5- Lopez]. I would like to first thank Supervisor [LaVere/Lopez] for defending our county’s election finance ordinance. I also would like [him/her] to add an agenda item to vote on extending our finance ordinance to cover the violation complaint filed against Supervisor Gorell. We will be watching this issue of public trust carefully. Thank you!
Who IS my supervisor, anyway? Click on this: https://vcportal.ventura.org/COV/redistricting/Ventura%20County%20Final%20Plan%205.html and put your address in the upper left corner.
We’ve got some questions for our new supervisors…
We think our new supervisors were testing the water, seeing how easily they could wipe ordinances representing decades of progress off our books. “The three Supervisors knew they had the votes, so they saw no need to bother with the delays involved with requesting staff analysis. We shall soon see what else this new right-wing Supervisors’ majority wants to see, though it’s likely to be in favor of the oil lobby and other development interests, rather than in support of the citizens they represent,” said Alasdair Coyne of Keep the Sespe Wild.“
This section of “questions” will keep expanding as more good information and analysis comes in!
1. Who asked you to do this?
Gorell and Parvin’s letter of March 14 acknowledged that our 20-year-old ordinance was created to “promote public trust… Reduce the appearance of corruption and prevent individuals and organizations from using their financial strength to corrupt Ventura County government by creating political debts through contributions or expenditures that would allow them to control or unduly influence elected officials.”
Question: On a scale of 0-10, 10 being the worst, how corrupt does it appear to repeal our ordinance with a single letter and an agenda item sandwiched between community proclamations?
Answer: We’re going with a 10 here. However, the majority of people who wrote letters and spoke at the two meetings now have exactly zero trust in these three board members. Luckily, the PACs of industries and string-pullers appear to be their real audience, so no worries!
NOTE to military veteran Supervisor Jeff Gorell: February 3, 2023 was the twentieth anniversary of the date that highly respected General Colin Powell declared that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” in a speech to the United Nations, selling his soul and his honor for corrupt and cynical politicians. “As Bush said to him at the time, ‘Maybe they’ll believe you. Maybe the audience will believe you.‘” General Powell regretted this moment of moral weakness for the rest of his life. Just saying…
2: As a general rule, when do conservatives drop their “small government/local control” mantra?
Answer: When there’s more money and power to be found in a larger level of government. (This should really be taught in schools.)
Claudia Bill De La Pena stated: “It is hypocritical at best that the supervisor who ran on local control now wants to give it up.” Jeff, you’re actually going against Thousand Oaks, the biggest city in your district.” She said PACs bought the campaign for Gorell. “You’re opening the floodgates and the consequences” are serious. She asked if he was trying to repeal the rules to avoid the investigation into his own campaign funding violations.
3: Was voting yourself a “Get-Out-of-Jail” card always part of the plan? UPDATED 4/21/23
Gorell said: “Let’s bring these donations out of the shadows….Let’s make the candidates accountable for accepting them or sending them back.” Um…OK.
UPDATE: Quote from Ventura County Compliance officer:
“Based on my initial review and investigation, it is my opinion that the allegations in the Complaint and the evidence I have obtained in the short time available to me establish that the Gorell Committee may have committed potentially serious violations of the Ordinance. It would be my recommendation to further investigate these issues. However, because the Ordinance is set to be repealed effective April 27, 2023, no further investigation by the Compliance Officer will be possible.”
Let’s do a quick bit of math here:
+ Complaint against Gorell on finance reporting violation as of 4/21/23 for campaign office rent! See both the citizen and
Commision complaint here: tinyurl.com/gorell-violation
+ Complaint against Gorell on finance reporting violation as of 4/11/23! Resolved due to this complaint.
+ New complaint: Parvin committee received $3,478 transferred from the Janice Parvin for Mayor 2020 campaign.
+ New complaint: Gorell committee (2) $750 payments from essentially the same person. (This has been settled.)
+ Report #2022-02: Parvin contributors used numerous related LLC’s to give her $5000
+ Report #2022-06: Parvin contributors used various personal and business accounts to give her $2,250
= UNDER THE STATE CODE, THEY COULD HAVE KEPT IT ALL! Move along…nothing to see here…
How accountable will they be in dealing with violations committed while under our ordinance?
They know, and we do too now, that our Ethics code disappeared along with the finance rules! Seriously, they were allowed to vote on a get-out-of-consequences ordinance that directly affected them.
We look forward to new, much higher and more complicated violations.
These will need to be caught or investigated by the state, a process that can take a long time, well after an election is over. Ventura County’s Ethics code, which is part of the ordinance being dumped, endeavored to catch and deal with violations during the election cycle, when voters could decide if they want cheaters to lead them.
WAITING: We await with great anticipation Parvin and Gorell’s pledges to deal transparently with violations under the old rules.
4. Did everyone catch that they killed off our Campaign Ethics Commission as well?
Under our own ordinance, a local candidate could receive a letter about a violation from the Ventura County Elections Division containing this paragraph…
What these new supervisors knew, and many of us in the audience didn’t, is that complaints of election violations will now be directed to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), where urgency goes to die…
Supervisors Gorell and Parvin’s claim from their board letters:
The truth of it…
(LATimes 2022) “The Fair Political Practices Commission exists to enforce state laws meant to prevent corruption. The bipartisan panel is supposed to police politicians, candidates, lobbyists and donors by making sure they follow campaign finance rules and steer clear of conflicts of interest. When it’s functioning well, the commission exposes misconduct in the political system and clears officials who have been wrongly accused. Its public process holds political players accountable when they break the rules and can deter others from even trying.
But lately, the commission has been taking so long to complete investigations that it’s losing power. It’s overloaded with old, unresolved cases and is not properly prioritizing those that need urgent attention. Elections come and go without answers. The watchdog has no bite….
…It would be bad enough if these were the commission’s only outstanding cases, but new data from the FPPC show 1,101 unresolved cases that were opened between 2016 and last year. That’s insane.
It’s gotten so bad that even the chair of the commission is asking the staff to pick up the pace. Investigations generally fall into two categories; those that are fairly routine are eligible for a streamlined enforcement process, and those that are complicated require more examination. Chairman Richard C. Miadich said at a recent meeting that the commission completed 77 complex investigations in 2020. This year, the number dropped to 13.
“We need to do something different,” he said. “We need to think more critically about ways that we can improve our transparency, improve our efficiency.”
Miadich has proposed a policy that calls for completing investigations within two years, except in extraordinary circumstances. It involves several intermediary deadlines and better prioritization of important cases. These sound like reasonable ideas, but commission staff immediately pushed back. They already have too much work, staff members wrote in comments to the commission, and argued that they would need to hire additional investigators to close cases more quickly and keep up with changing laws.
Let’s look at a real-world example:
An article about a 2018 mailer disclosure violation by the Lincoln Club of San Diego, a conservative business group FROM SAN DIEGO who just happened to donate a considerable amount to Jeff Gorell’s campaign for some reason, explained how the FPPC’s slow processing times might be manipulated to advantage.
“FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga said the commission fields complaints from members of the public and rival campaigns and follows media reports to look for possible violations. If it finds a violation, penalties can range from a warning letter to a fine of up to $5,000.
First-time candidates are more likely to receive a warning letter, he said, and fines are likely to be lower if the violator took steps to correct the error.
But sometimes rule breakers can avoid facing any consequences until after an election is over. The FPPC meets only once a month to approve penalties, and Wierenga said the bulk of cases take up to six months to resolve. He said sometimes candidates or political groups knowingly break the rules hoping that sanctions will not be announced until votes are already cast.
“It’s sometimes difficult to find the intent,” he said. “But I would say it does happen. People will at times succumb to wanting to take shortcuts and do what they think is necessary at the time to have a positive outcome for themselves or their group.”
UPDATE: Yep. If you believed Gorell and Parvin’s claims that the state would do a better and more efficient job than our own county, you were had. It isn’t the same level of lie that General Powell made about Iraq by any measure, but it was still a lie made by a person in their role as a government leader in order to gain more power.
5. Oh, and the fines from the old ordinance and the state are WAY DIFFERENT!
Here are the possible penalties under our original ordinance #4510
So, if Supervisor Gorell is found to have committed the violation alleged in this complaint (tinyurl.com/gorell-violation), he could owe as much as $165,000.
Here are the possible penalties under the state ordinance.
If the violation is found to have merit, Gorell could face a fine of $5k for the whole thing, or $5k for each allegedly deficient rent payment, or missing rent payment. Some maybe $40k max. Still a sizable savings!
6. Will the real Supervisor Gorell please stand up?
We have a trust issue at this point…
Who is he?
- Last June, candidate Jeff Gorell stated that the county’s cap of $750 for contributions to the race required all candidates to run grassroots campaigns.” There are no ‘deep pocketed’ donors since everyone is limited to only $750.”
- Now-Supervisor Gorell quoted Buckley v. Valeo to the audience and stated that a $750 limit was UNCONSTITUTIONAL. (See March 14 video below, ±4:10)
- Normal people would say “If a $750 limit isn’t constitutional now, it assuredly wasn’t constitutional in June of ’22 either, so the resulting election of two supervisors (Parvin and Gorell) who somehow managed to get elected under such horrendous conditions should probably just be thrown out, right?
NO YELLING “UNCONSTITUTIONAL” IN A CROWDED ROOM!: If a supervisor, the highest position in the room, claims unconstitutionality – the most serious accusations possible in our democracy – then that the proceeding should halt immediately until the County Counsel has a chance to rule on it.
This issue raised by changeling Gorell at the March 14 meeting wasn’t dealt with until the end of the March 28th second hearing. “Supervisor Vianey Lopez of Oxnard asked County Counsel Tiffany North if the county’s current campaign finance ordinance is constitutional. North said the county campaign limits have not been found to be unconstitutional and have not been successfully challenged. North said the county campaign ruled could be successfully defended. North also said the current campaign rules have been amended several times since they were adopted in 2003.“
A more complete response should have followed, including:
- A thorough study of the locally-based election ordinances of other 25 counties and over170 cities (includes: Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Los Angeles
- Exact differences and similarities between our code and the state code.
- whether or not “living wages” and getting “enough money for the most effective means to reach voters” were constitutional rights.
ACTION PLAN: Pass an ordinance requiring an immediate County Counsel comment after any claims of unconstitutionality by supervisors.
7. This letter you submitted…is that ALL you got?
The VC Star put it more delicately -“What was missing in the supervisors’ consideration, however, was any sort of independent analysis. The board was presented simply with a letter from the advocates — Gorell and Parvin. There was no staff analysis that might have examined the pros and cons.” Also missing, a lot of backup facts and figures.
- Board letter – March 14 – from Gorell and Parvin,
- Board letter – March 28 – from Gorell and Parvin
Note: Their concept that the current ordinance in any way advantages incumbents more than the cash-flush state system was too dumb to investigate.
UPDATE: Community members who love this county were left to shoulder the task of figuring out fact from fiction from what appeared to be an incredibly lazy administrative coup by the board majority. What follows includes their work.
8. “Redundancy” – why do you keep saying that word? (We don’t think it means what you think it means.)
One of the numerous issues missing backup and analysis was the claim by Gorell and a few audience members that “the County ordinance is “redundant, unnecessary bureaucracy to State law.” If the two sets of regulations were identical, then our Ordinance would indeed be redundant. A diligent citizen spent hours comparing features between the two sets of laws, because that analysis was not provided. What she discovered was that Gorell was wrong. The state could learn a lot from the stronger provisions of our ordinance.
She submitted her chart to the board and you can view it online here. The summary of are her conclusions below.
- Our campaign limit is $750, the state’s is $5,500. The state limit has increased 12% since 2021.
- We have voluntary campaign expenditure limits. The State law has none for local government.
- We require disclosure of contributions over $50. The State isn’t interested until $500.
- We have access to campaign contribution information from one year before to 90 days after an election; for 24-hour reports, the State gets financial information just 90 days prior to an election.
- We require anonymous contributions over $25 without donor information to be returned. The State isn’t interest until $100.
- We limit anonymous contributions to $500 maximum per campaign; the State only cares about those more than $100 per person.
- We only allow personal loans to be repaid from a campaign if the amount is less than $20,000. The State allows repayment up to $100,000.
- We limit contributions to a legal defense fund of $300/year. The State has no limit.
- If there’s money laundering, we penalize the candidate 3 x the amount in addition to the amount to be paid to the State. If the ordinance is repealed, we’d lose that income.
NOTE: This should have been a staff report, and issues from interested parties could have been incorporated into our existing ordinance. But that didn’t happen for some reason.
9. Apparently, the state’s SB 1439/Levine Act law was SO IMPORTANT, that our ordinance had to go. But what if that law is thrown out too?
“Robert Rivinius, executive director of the Family Business Association of California: ‘Somebody could contribute to a local official, not even realizing that eight months later they’ll need a permit and all of a sudden the people they need a vote from aren’t able to vote.’”
Gorell and Parvin never admitted that our county ordinance and state laws existed in harmony, with the most restrictive rules being applied for any given circumstance. That’s because it was all or nothing for them, and interestingly enough, they’ll profit either way. Yep, Senate Bill 1439/Levine Act, the state law that’s supposed to limit “pay-to-play” corruption among public boards, commissions and elected county officials with the magical barrier of $250, may get tossed in court!
In fact, Gorell and Parvin probably knew about the court challenges when they gave it the starring role in both of their letters! Here’s their pretty PowerPoint graphic on it.
- Board letter – March 14 – from Gorell and Parvin,
- Board letter – March 28 – from Gorell and Parvin
But even if the Levine Act survives its day(s) in court, we are pretty sure any child brought up on video games can figure out how to get around the elementary challenges this law presents. It was never worth the sacrifice of our own election code.
Here’s our graphic!
LET’S PLAY THE GAME!
|The rules are very simple!|
– Player A needs to get money to Player B – the SUPERVISOR, to win the permit and move on to the next level!
– There is a year-long pool of lava between them.
– Player A can’t use more than $250 while in the pool of lava or they will burn up and have to start over!
– PAC-Dragon barf can kill Player B, but Player A is immune.
|Even kids know that Player B can remember stuff for longer than a year because the lava pool is a year long.|
Using their “word” tools, Player A can indicate that they are front-loading their money.
We’re guessing that in the real-life version of this game, businesses would learn to routinely pledge the maximum donation to all Player B’s on a board, just in case… kind of like a shake-down, but legal. Or simply don’t donate at all. One isn’t required to play.
|Pay now AND pay later! Player A utilizes their “word” tools again to negotiate around the pool of lava.|
This is not brain surgery.
|Every video game needs a good villain or monster! |
In this one, we have the PAC-Dragon! Player A can feed a PAC-Dragon sooo much money that it gets sick somewhere near Player B.
Player B can’t touch the PAC-Dragon’s magical barf or they’ll die, but Player B’s friends might be able to turn it into slate mailers, or something.
|If Player A gets enough money, they can buy “friends” who have special powers or properties.|
Then Player A’s friends can give money, or a “free” election office, or a great deal on something really cool to to Player B.
Then Player A remains safe from the lava pool and still gets their permit.
If this law survives head-on court challenges, we suggest that unimaginative permit-seekers who finding this law difficult to sneak past, consult a child gamer for further suggestions.
ACTION PLAN: A citizen-led advisory group and/or a staff should have been allowed to report on the Levine Act, including its possible demise, and their recommendations for improvement been incorporated into our existing code. But that didn’t happen for some reason. However, studying this bill now, we definitely need to come up with something far better.
10. “Lies, Damned lies, and statistics” is a famous quote. Which type are we talking about here?
At the March 14 meeting, Gorell and Parvin stated that 33 of 58 Counties do not have their own ordinances, like that was a good thing.
Parents in the audience will recognize the familiar “My friends are jumping off the roof! Why can’t I” argument. Gorell also emphasized the state’s election code was endorsed by DEMOCRATS(!), apparently thinking that it would somehow short-circuit our higher reasoning skills. Yes, the DEMOCRATS did help create the Political Reform Act – a basic minimum code of election practices to stop wild excesses of corruption which was passed in 1974 after the Watergate scandal, which has been updated and challenged ever since.
But it should be noted that counties were not forbidden from trying to do better with their own codes, tailored to their own community needs.
Just as kids withhold vital information from parents about stupid things they want to do, Gorell and Parvin didn’t provide a visual to clearly illustrate the difference between those counties who needed state guidance vs. those who didn’t, so we graphed it for them.
The lines represent population size. In red, are the counties they were trying to pass off as something to emulate – mostly small counties, starting with Alpine with a population of 1,214, going up to Los Angeles County, with over 10 million. Ventura, like other larger, and more sophisticated counties who understand that voices can be overwhelmed by money, created an election code that was tailored to our community.
NOTE: Push back at every fact-free argument the GOP hands out to excuse their takeover of our election processes.
11. Seriously, Gorell and Parvin, what does the word “Disproportionate” mean to you?
By the March 28 meeting, we think their staff had figured out that the room was ready to call them out on their ridiculous comparison between counties. But they couldn’t ditch their addiction to stupid statistics.
Using overloaded PowerPoint slides that we, the public, got to see for about 30 seconds, Gorell wanted us to shock our sensibilities with the number of independent expenditure committees infesting local-ordinance counties versus state-owned ones.
We marked the slide below to show where you were supposed to be SHOCKED – by the (80) independent expenditure committees (IEs) being shown in Los Angeles County! OMG! Then, after noting other large numbers on the left side of cities with local ordinances, we were guided to the columns on the right, where you can easily the lower IE counts of counties that comply with the state guidelines.
He said “that in 2022, a non-presidential year, Counties like Ventura County had an average of 14.47 independent expenditure committees versus Counties without local ordinances, which had an average of 3.8 expenditure committees.”
Now that we’ve seen the results of our own chart of the counties relative sizes, we believe that normal people would assume there would be more IE’s in larger counties – larger population = more industries, more money.
Statistics are funny things though…that same chart showed us these interesting facts:
- Evil old LA County had (77) IE’s way back in 2014, just recently breaking that record by adding (3) for the 2022 election.
- Of the (14) counties using the state ordinance, (9) had increased their IE count by (1) or more! Stanislaus increased from (0) to (9), Placer went from (1) to (7) and San Benito went from (4) to (10).
That was fun, but let’s get back to the subject of what the heck is “disproportional.”
Gorell/Parvin’s claim of “disproportional” IEs was difficult to prove however, as they hadn’t given any data beyond the number of IEs per county.
So we added in what seemed to be deliberately missing – population data, and contribution limits.
But once we started crunching some numbers based on proportions of IE’s to population, we serious begin wonder what, if anything, these numbers meant. Certainly, we wondered if the supervisors’ staff understood the words “Disproportionately Larger Quantity of Independent Expenditures.”
Based on population.
We will start with their scariest example – LA – a county election system chock full of (80) independent expenditure committees and low contribution limits of $1500 for candidates who agree to spending caps. (IEs) Our state’s largest county has a population of 10,079,629, so that works out to one IE for every 125,995 people. How did that “proportion” compare to a random assortment of other CA counties?
Well, there are wide variations, but nothing proves that LA is the outlier, or the outlaw, it was meant to appear to be. In fact, there seems to be little discernible pattern.
|County||State or Local Election Ordinance||Contribution limit||Number of IEs||Population||(1) IE/pop.#?||How many IEs would LA Co. have with same rate of IE/pop.#?|
|Los Angeles||LOCAL||$1,500 comply/|
|80||10,072,629||(1) IE /125,995 people||(80) IEs|
|Alameda||LOCAL||$20,000||33||1,733,977||(1) IE /52,545 people||(192) IEs|
|San Luis Obispo||LOCAL||$25,000||7||286,261||(1) IE /40,896 people||(246) IEs|
|San Bernardino||LOCAL||$5,500||32||2,225,586||(1) IE /69,550 people||(145) IEs|
|San Diego||LOCAL||$400||41||3,359,630||(1) IE /81,942 people||(123) IEs|
|San Benito||STATE||$5,500||10||66,891||(1) IE /6,689 people||(1,505) IEs|
|Stanislaus||STATE||$5,500||8||564,404||(1) IE /70,551 people||(143) IEs|
|Monterey||STATE||$5,500||2||446,229||(1) IE /223,115 people||(45) IEs|
|Madera||STATE||UNLIMITED||1||157,872||(1) IE /157,872 people||(64) IEs|
Counties with (0) IEs as noted by Supervisors Gorell and Parvin’s staff
Then we decided to look briefly at the counties with no recorded IEs. Arranged by wide-ranging contribution limits, these seem a random bunch as well.
|County||State or Local Election Ordinance||Contribution limit||Number of IEs||Population|
Note, in investigating reasons why Fresno County has no IEs, we found at least one clue as to why it has the nation’s second-highest rate of concentrated poverty, ranks near the bottom across 274 US cities on economic and racial inclusion and ranked last among 59 cities in California. “To set the campaign finance limit at $30,000 is not even setting a limit at-all. That’s a down payment on a house for most Valley families. The only ‘people’ that have that type of cash to throw at elections are the same old money families that already finance most of the supervisors.”
Counties with state limit of $5,500 with IEs as noted by Supervisors Gorell and Parvin’s staff
Our new supervisors’ argument is that by raising Ventura County’s personal contribution level to the state’s current level of $5,500, IEs would simply disappear. Arranged in descending order by population, one can see that not only did they not disappear in counties already using the state ordinance, but in proportion to their population size, some, like San Benito, also shown in our first table above, have shockingly high percentages of IE participation.
|County||State or Local |
|Contribution limit||Number of IEs||Pop,|
NOTE: Push back at every fact-free argument the GOP hands out to excuse their takeover of our election processes.
NOTE TO GORELL, PARVIN & LONG: If you put out misleading or false statements, or misuse statistics, we will track the information down and illustrate it until it makes sense to regular citizens.
12. CHUTZPAH ALERT break!
“What we found since then, more recently, for Ventura County, we had the largest number of independent expenditures compared to the four previous election cycles. There were more independent expenditures than we’ve ever seen in history.”
OMG, THERE WAS… (wait for it)…(1) MORE independent expenditure than back in 2016!
Wait…that was it?
No, there’s more…Of the 9 IE’s reported for Ventura County’s general election, the largest beneficiary, indirectly, of course, was Supervisor Gorell, receiving money from what appears to have been 3 or 4 of those independent expediture committees, including:
- $460,400 –CA Coalition for Public Safety supporting Gorell and Parvin
- $40,750 – The Community Leadership Coalition sponsored by the Lincoln Club of San Diego
- $83,590.00 – Honesty Counts supporting Jeff Gorell & Opposing Claudia Bill-De la Peña for Supervisor 2022 supported by local small businesses and professionals
Meanwhile, Claudia Bill De-la-Peña had one – $15,000 from Friends and Neighbors Supporting Claudia Bill-De La Peña for Supervisor 2022, Sponsored by Food and Water Action
13. So, can we just settle down and talk about what really causes PACs?
“The $750 limit on individual campaign donations doesn’t stop big money donations, it drives them to the less transparent and less accountable IEs and the former supervisors know this.”
This was an audience comment on March 14, (4:05), a sentiment repeated in the supervisors’ letters and Gorell’s speeches. We have road-tested this theory and now know the following…It’s false. But what is true?
- Both state and locally-controlled counties have PACS
- PACS exist in seemingly random quantities in both large and small counties
- PACS exist in seemingly random patterns alongside a wide variety of contribution limits.
- Our new supervisors are liars.
For one more truth, let’s look at an example of a state-level race. Unlike the complication caused by differing contribution limits in county and city contests, the playing ground here is absolutely level.
- ALL candidates for state office have the same contribution limits ($4,900 in 2022, $5,500 in 2023)
- CONTRIBUTIONS ARE UNLIMITED from both political parties and independent expenditure committees.
But it’s not that simple! Depending on their district, legislative races received wildly different amounts of independent expenditure cash, as the graph from CalMatters below shows.
CalMatters explains that the biggest sources of independent expenditures were industry groups – oil and gas companies and electric utilities, together spending more than $7.6 million, roughly one-fifth of the total. Areas without resources to fight over have fewer PACs.
Back here in Ventura, the oil and gas industry was willing to spend $8.2 million to kill Measures A and B, eminently reasonable requests that new drilling operations comply with modern standards, and more the $800,000 to support and oppose candidates for our board of supervisors, it is laughable to imply that if we’d only had $5,500 personal contribution limits instead of $750, that they would have refrained from indulging in the “unlimited contributions” provided by IE’s.
NOTE: Push back at every fact-free argument the GOP hands out to excuse their takeover of our election processes.
14. Did we sleep through a staff report on the civil rights implications of removing our ordinance?
An excellent letter submitted to the board from VC Women Leaders of Color, however, noted that “a reasonable contribution limit that is also attainable by working-class candidates of color levels the playing field and addresses the financial advantage that an incumbent or a well-connected candidate may typically have.”
Two out of five of our districts, including Supervisor Long’s District 3, are Latino majority districts, Voting rights law prohibits diminishing the voting strength of members of racial or language minority groups with boundary lines. However, money can do the job of silencing a community just as effectively.
Let’s look at a visual depiction using Supervisor Parvin and her campaign kitty of $162,000. With existing limits of $750, Supervisor Parvin had to receive contributions from at least 216 supporters to reach that amount.
However, if the limits go to $5,500, she just needs to throw one 30-person black-tie dinner party and she’s done. No more hours of door-knocking on hot days, explaining her values and listening to a neighborhood’s concerns. Now all those whose concerns she will listen to can be corralled into one air-conditioned dining room.
We know from our research on Fresno County, that routinely ignoring the needs of community members in favor of wealthy campaign contributors causes widespread, systemic harm. (See point #9, above)
What does that harm look like in Ventura County? It looks like two new wells in the Oxnard neighborhood of Lemonwood, with an expiration-proof permit from 1957, with far fewer safety conditions than modern permits.
- The oil and gas industry blocked an earlier Board of Supervisors ordinance requiring new drilling on elderly permits be done to modern safety standards.
- The oil industry outspent environmental and social activists 7 to 1 to smash Measures A and B, which would have restored the original protective ordinance.
- And now the industry filed a referendum stopping the implementation of AB 1137, a bill that would require setbacks of 3200 feet for drilling activities near homes and schools.
- Supervisor Long recently voted, with Gorell and Parvin, to allow the new oil and gas wells to operate close to Lemonwood’s homes and schools.
Lemonwood is in District 3 – Kelly Long’s district. The people who live there are her constituents. The harm they face from close contact with drilling is a scientific fact. A group of researchers composing the California Oil and Gas Public Health Rulemaking Scientific Advisory Panel concluded that “studies consistently demonstrate evidence of harm at distances less than 1 km, and some studies also show evidence of harm linked to [oil and gas development] activity at distances greater than 1 km.” (One kilometer clocks in at 3,280 feet).
Whenever there’s a conflict between the health of her constituents and the oil and gas industry…well…there has never been a conflict.
A citizen-led advisory group and/or a staff report on dealing with how increasing contribution limits would affect minority communities and their representation should have occurred. But that didn’t happen for some reason.
WHAT GORELL/PARVIN SHOULD HAVE DONE: The supervisors should have authorized a citizen-led advisory group and/or a staff report on dealing with how increasing contribution limits would affect minority communities and their representation. But that didn’t happen for some reason.
15. Hey, did we sleep through a staff report on the effect of inflation on our ordinance?
Nope again. Gorell and company don’t need no stinkin’ staff reports! He did, however, accuse us of having “been lazy for not taking inflation into account.”
Better late than never, Jeff! At the March 28 meeting, actual evidence on the effect of inflation was discussed within a 90-second sound byte.
A dollar in 2003 is equal to 1.63 in 2023. Adjusting our contribution limit to take this into account gives us this equation:
$750 x 1.63 = $1,222. This amount is still far less than the $5,500 you think you deserve.
WHAT GORELL/PARVIN SHOULD HAVE DONE: The results of a citizen-led advisory group and/or a staff report on dealing with the effects of inflation could have been incorporated into our existing code. But that didn’t happen for some reason.
16. OK, how about a staff report on the effect of higher election contributions on the voice of county residents?
Hahaha, no. Supervisor Gorell didn’t talk at all about the stagnation of worker wages that theoretically could be used for contributions to his campaign, so we did.
But his PowerPoint presentation and his speech did mention that Buckley vs. Valeo allowed limits to be applied to contribution to candidates as long as they were reasonable and “closely drawn.” Well, there is nothing more “closely drawn” than working within the constraints of the financial realities of the MAJORITY of your constituents, not the wealthiest outliers.
The Pew Research Institute has stated that worker real wages “have barely budged for decades.” That’s your constraint.
So, compared to 2003, is it easier or harder for today’s worker to scrape up $750 for a donation?
- A $750 donation already equals 28 hours of work.
- The difference between $5,500 limit and a $750 limit = $4,750. That’s more than a month’s salary for many of your constituents.
- “Gina” has to live within a budget. Our new supervisors thought it might be unconstitutional that they don’t get enough money to effectively advertise themselves to “Gina,”
- “Gina” may be wondering why these new supervisors think they are so special, they are above budgeting with what they have, especially since they obviously ran successful campaigns with $750 dollar limits.
ACTION PLAN: The supervisors should authorize a staff report along with a county-wide survey comparing the voter participation before and after the changeover to a $5,500 contribution limit in the next election cycle with the commitment to resetting lower contribution limits in case of a negative outcome.
17. Seriously? “Livable wages?” OK, we’ll play!
Definition: “In the public sphere, “political theater” is synonymous with “empty show.” It’s a gesture. Posturing. Grandstanding. Sound and fury, likely to be signaling no genuine idea but certainly indicating a play for power.“
“With higher limits, candidates can fully fund a campaign, including communicating with all voters and also compensating their staff (local jobs) with a livable wage.“ – Board PowerPoint
Nothing prevented Gorell from paying a living wage to his campaign workers. It was his decision as to how many mailers his campaign will send, and it was his decision to determine his staff’s wages. He was the top fundraiser – he could have made decisions based on sincerely-held values that livable wages mattered, but he didn’t.
This “livable wage” bit only makes sense coming from conservatives if one views the statement as a form of political theater, like Gorell’s denial of being a stealth bomber for special interest groups…
“During the election, campaign literature labeled 2nd District candidate Gorell a “Republican lobbyist” for oil and special interest groups, which he has strenuously denied. The Naval Reserve officer said he was looking forward to being judged on his actions.” Great! We’re going to judge him on some actions…both for killing our election code, including our Campaign Ethics Commission, an intention that neither he, nor Parvin disclosed during their campaigns, and for accepting funding from an out-of-county group called the Community Leadership Coalition.
Hmmm…why is this coalition so interesting?
“A so-called Major Donor filing made by Haas with the California Secretary of State’s office on May 18 tells the tale. Listing the $20,000 as a contribution to the Community Leadership Coalition, without mentioning the Lincoln Club connection, the statement says the funds are ultimately destined for an “Independent Expenditure Committee supporting Jeff Gorell for Ventura County Supervisor in District 2.” A May 5 story by the VC Star reports that the election of Republican Gorrell as a Ventura County supervisor would likely change the body’s so-called “pro-environment” positions, including those on oil drilling.“
Because we love “transparency” as much as now-Supervisor Gorell, we were interested in who, and what, the Lincoln Club was and why their connection wasn’t mentioned. Why, in fact, did a pro-business political advocacy group based in San Diego funnel so much money to Gorell’s Ventura County supervisor race?
John MacMurry in the LA Progressive wrote “The Lincoln Club . . . by opening up campaign contributions to individuals and groups who can give unlimited amounts of anonymous dollars, gets the undying gratitude of billionaires and large corporations, and the ability to buy control of any government in California—or all of them.”
As political theater, we could imagine a business group gleefully toasting themselves over the irony of turning a “livable wage” argument for the hypothetical benefit of a tiny group of election workers, into a weapon to successfully kill off an entire local election code.
What isn’t our imagination were the cynical games played by supporters of Gorell, including a mailer identifying him, a Republican, as the “Democratic Choice.” Completely coincidentally, the Lincoln Club has been known to participate in political gamesmanship in at least two races (ocregister) (inewsource), running negative ad campaigns in what appeared to be “divide and conquer” campaigns.
ACTION PLAN: Since he brought it up, we should task Supervisor Gorell with creating a diverse citizen advocacy group, that not only oversees his and other amenable supervisors’ compliance in providing livable wages to their election staff, but also studies the minimum wage in Ventura county for all hourly workers. Surely he would want to pass on such benefits to all his constituents!
18. You’re going there? OK.
At the March 14 meeting, a speaker from COLAB stated that the “local ordinance did not catch campaign donation irregularities committed by the same PAC to which Ms. Parks donated that $9000” and that “those irregularities were caught by the state’s FPPC.” (4:05 in the video for March 14 – attached below)
We were going to ignore this whole issue as being too stupid, but then Gorell and Parvin decided to stick these slides into their March 28 PowerPoint extravaganza – because either they don’t understand election rules, or more to the point, didn’t think we did.
The two forms the slide depicted…
- Form 460: Record of Linda Parks’ personal donation to Claudia Bill De La Peña of $750. Regular donation.
- Form 496: Record of Linda Parks’ donation of $9,900 of her surplus campaign funds from 2018 to Claudia, a candidate who was running for her old seat in District 2. Parks followed the strict FPPC rules for recycling such funds after an election.
As a letter to the VCStar put it “the campaign dollars left over after an election are free for the candidates to donate to other races. This surplus would allow the three supervisors to more directly affect the outcomes of down-ballot elections like city councils, school boards, parks and resource management and, as is happening in Florida, Texas and other states, these elections are being filled with politicians far more beholden to their party than to the will of the voters.”
No crime. No hypocrisy. The “Friends and Neighbors” crew had a couple of technical errors that the state literally said were no big deal. But thanks for the entertaining slides and the drama of insinuation over facts, Gorell and Parvin!
UPDATE: We look forward the the resolution of all the new violations filed on Parvin and Gorell.
17. What should we push for now? Let’s start by removing the corruption of foreign-influenced corporations in our county!
Former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond: “I’m not a U.S. company and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.”
George Washington used his farewell address to warn us to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.
Well, we in Ventura County know that large corporations sway our election system with large infusions of cash to get the maximum shareholder profit they can out of our county, with very little concern for the lives and health of those who live here.
Their dark money operations expanded exponentially after the Supreme Court decision – Citizen’s United – defined corporations as an “association of citizens.” But that’s not true anymore, if it ever was. Now shareholders WHO ARE NOT CITIZENS control 40% of the American corporations and can sway election outcomes to increase their profits, without having to live here amongst the consequences.
In Ventura County, where many first-generation community members have waited years for citizenship and the privilege to vote in our elections, the concept of foreign shareholders leapfrogging over them with unearned power is profoundly wrong, unpatriotic and corrupt.
The city of Seattle closed this loophole with ordinance #126035. AB83 has introduced this to our state legislature. The city of San Jose has already passed it through their city council. A citizen-led committee could study how Ventura could become the first county in CA to embrace this profoundly moral and patriotic ordinance.
ACTION PLAN: After reading the both public letters from Gorell and Parvin, we know that our new supervisors will agree to the following proposal, because they said over and over that they were public trust loving, financial transparency-loving and anti-corruption public servants! So, email your own supervisor some version of the letters at the top of this post. Make them sound like you! Contact information included.
- See links to both the citizen and Commission complaint here: tinyurl.com/gorell-violation
- Minutes from March 14 meeting – documents for item #44.
- Ventura County Election code, 4510. 4546
- including comment letters,
- fact sheet on contribution limits for city and county candidates,
- Board letter – March 14 – from Gorell and Parvin,
- Board letter – March 28 – from Gorell and Parvin
- handout from meeting
- (2) active complaints
- 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
- (Seattle.legisstar.com) Office of the City Clerk – AN ORDINANCE related to elections; prohibiting foreign-influenced corporations from making independent expenditures or contributing to campaigns and independent expenditure committees; amending Sections 2.04.010, 2.04.260, 2.04.270, 2.04.360, and 2.04.370 of the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC); and adding a new Section 2.04.400 to the SMC.
- (Seattle.legisstar.com) Ordinance prohibiting foreign-influenced corporations from making independent expenditures.
- (Supra) UPDATE: Local California Elected Officials Prohibited from Voting On Campaign Contributors’ Projects
- (VCStar) Editorial: More examination needed before scrapping campaign contribution law
- (VCStar) Ventura County board votes to repeal 20-year-old campaign finance rules
- (Ojaivalleynews.com) Breaking: County supervisors vote 3-2 to repeal county campaign contribution limits.
- (VCStar) Ventura County election: Bill-de la Peña, Gorell close in money chase as campaign nears end
- (VCStar) June 7 primary: Gorell leads in fundraising for supervisor’s seat despite late start
- (VCStar) County supervisors create two majority Latino districts
- (Yahoo) Guest column (Former Supervisores Bennett and Parks): Don’t let supervisors eliminate campaign contribution limit law
- (VCStar) Ventura County supervisors allow oil operator to re-drill 2 well near Oxnard neighborhood.
- (ziprecruiter) Average Salary in Ventura, CA
- As of Mar 23 the average annual salary in Ventura is $56,058. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $26.95 an hour. This is equivalent of $1,078 a week or $4,671 a month. Most salaries in Ventura range between $39,196 (25th percentile) to $71,037 (75th percentile) annually.
- Of course, salaries will vary depending on your occupation, experience, and many other factors.
- To estimate the most accurate salary range for jobs in Ventura, we continuously scan out database of millions of active jobs in our marketplace.
- (honestycounts.org) A Political Action Committee (PAC) for Jeff Gorell for Supervisor deceptively uses Honesty Counts in its name.
- (CAP) Stopping Political Spending by Foreign-Influenced U.S. Corporations
- (Freespeechforpeople.org) Coates-Fein-Crenny-Dong Foreign Blockholder Paper – Quantifying foreign institutional block ownership at publicly traded U.S. corporations
- (Freespeechforpeople.org) San Jose Legislation
- (sanjose.legistar.com) Memorandum on Campaign Finance Reform.
- (freespeechforpeople.org) Quantifiying foreign institutional block ownership at publicly traded U.S. corporations.
- (freespeechforpeople.org) Seattle legislation to end Super PACS
- (Freespeechforpeople.org) “A corporation spending money in U.S. elections doesn’t qualify as an ‘association of citizens’ if it has major foreign investors,” said Free Speech For People Legal Director Ron Fein. “San Jose has taken a major step towards protecting its democratic self-government.”
- According to a 2019 national poll of 2,633 voters by the Center for American Progress, 73 percent of Americans—including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans—would support banning corporate political spending by corporations with any foreign ownership.
- For more information about the legislation, including letters of support and analysis from Free Speech For People and Professor Tribe, click here.
- (wiki) Buckley v. Valeo
- (transition.fec.gov) The Federal Election Campaign Laws:A Short History
- (Journals.uchicago.edu) The Business of American Democracy: Citizens United, Independent Spending, and Elections
- (CAP) San Jose Bill Would Limit Political Spending by Foreign-Influenced U.S. Corporations – An ordinance recommended by several of San Jose’s councilmembers would help protect the city’s elections and ballot measures by prohibiting American corporations with appreciable foreign ownership from spending political dollars.
- In the U.S. Supreme Court’s misguided decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the conservative majority gave American corporations the ability to spend money in elections based on the premise that corporations are “associations of citizens.”10 However, many of the largest American-based corporations are owned appreciably by foreign entities. This creates a loophole in the Supreme Court’s ruling, as recognized in a dissenting opinion by former Justice John Paul Stevens: Foreign entities can invest in U.S. corporations, which then spend large amounts of money from their corporate treasuries to influence the results of elections and ballot initiatives.11 This dangerous loophole allows foreign entities to circumvent the long-standing federal prohibition against their participating directly or indirectly in U.S. elections.12
- The recommended ordinance proposes a cogent method to close this anti-democratic loophole by using bright-line thresholds to determine when a corporation has appreciable foreign ownership. The ordinance would amend the municipal code to define foreign-influenced corporations as any corporation—as defined by California’s Political Reform Act—in which at least one of the following conditions is true:
- 1 percent or more of the total ownership interests of the corporation are held by a single foreign entity.
- 5 percent or more of the total ownership interests of the corporation are held by two or more foreign entities in aggregate.
- The corporation is owned by a foreign entity that directly or indirectly participates in decisions on the corporation’s political activities in the United States.
- I note that the recommended ordinance reasonably does not appear to limit foreign-influenced corporations from contributing money from their political action committees—where, by law, funds are derived from U.S. employees—nor does it limit either contributions from executives or employees in their personal capacities or a corporation’s lobbying activities. Instead, the ordinance aims to limit spending directly from corporations’ treasuries—spending that can be done via secret, dark money routes. It is also important that the recommended ordinance not apply to nonprofit corporations or have any impact on individual immigrants in the United States.
- Practical effect of foreign ownership thresholds
- In my 2019 report, I analyzed data on foreign ownership of 111 U.S.-based publicly traded corporations in the S&P 500 stock index. The results include the following:
- When applying the 1 percent single foreign shareholder threshold, 74 percent of the corporations studied exceeded the threshold.
- When applying the 5 percent aggregate foreign shareholder threshold, 98 percent of the corporations studied exceeded the threshold.
- These 111 corporations voluntarily disclosed the very large sum of $443 million spent in federal and state elections from their corporate treasuries in the years 2015, 2016, and 2017.
- Among smaller publicly traded corporations, 28 percent of the corporations that were randomly sampled exceeded the 5 percent aggregate foreign-ownership threshold. From this analysis, it appears that smaller publicly traded corporations may be less likely to have as much aggregate foreign ownership as their larger counterparts and therefore would likely be less affected by the recommended ordinance’s ownership thresholds.
- (VCStar) County supervisors create two majority Latino districts
- For the first time, Ventura County will have two supervisorial districts that are predominantly Latino.
- Figures in the 2020 census show Latinos make up 43% of the county’s population, making them by far the predominant minority.
- The board added a second majority Latino district in the expansive Third District represented by Supervisor Kelly Long, joining a revamped Fifth District centered in Oxnard that is 56.4% Latino and represented by Supervisor Carmen Ramirez.
- The voting rights law, a landmark in civil rights legislation, prohibits drawing political boundaries in a way that diminishes the voting strength of members of racial or language minority groups. Supervisors were not required to establish a second majority Latino district, but several of them said it was the right thing to do.
- “You want to have people at the dais that reflect the residents, and this does give that,” Board Chairwoman Linda Parks said in an interview Wednesday.
- That would be the case if a second Latino is elected to the board. Parks said the new districts provide greater opportunity for such a victory.
- The revised Third District, which had been centered in Camarillo, arguably is now anchored in the Santa Paula-Fillmore area and will have a bare Latino majority of 50.1%, up from 40%.
- The redistricting shifts a large part of eastern Camarillo and properties north of Las Posas Road to the Thousand Oaks-based Second District represented by Parks. Some portion of the predominantly white city of 70,000 had to be split from Long’s district to create one with a majority Latino population, county officials said.
- Though supervisors were legally prohibited from considering election outcomes in their decision, the Third District appears to become more Democratic and the Second District more Republican. Voter registration figures could not be found based on the newly drawn districts. The first hint may not come until registration figures are published for the primary election in June.
- Neither Republicans nor Democrats dominate in Camarillo, according to state figures published early this year showing 36% of registered voters Democrats and 35% Republican. About 20% declined to state their party affiliations.
- Long, a Republican, said last week that she had “no clue” about how the redrawn maps would affect how she or another conservative would fare in future elections. She is up for election again in 2024 and plans to run.
- John Andersen, chairman of the Ventura County Republican Party, said he thought Long would still fare well in the new district, having a “broad base of support.” She has twice beaten Democratic candidates for the nonpartisan seat.
- He said it looks “at first blush” like the change in Parks’ Second District could help supervisorial candidate Tim McCarthy or another conservative. “It comes down to messaging,” he said. “If he presents a pro-citizen, pro-business message, that will be helpful.” McCarthy could not be reached for comment.
- Steven Auclair, chairman of the county Democratic Party, said he lacked enough information to comment on the partisan splits of the new districts.
- Supervisors voted 4-1 to adopt the new map with Ramirez dissenting.
- (Camarillo Acorn) “Following the money on the campaign trail”
- If the momentum continues, Gorell and Bill-de la Peña are on pace to far outraise the 2020 supervisor winners, Matt Lavere, Kelly Long and Carmen Hernandez, who raised $140,000, $147,000 and $169,000, respectively.
- Per county rules, individual donations to supervisors are capped at $750. The candidates have also agreed to a personal cap of $235,000. All three have signed a voluntary pledge to stay under that benchmark.”
- (honestycounts.org) Jeff Gorrell
(SanJoseSpotlight.com) UPDATE: San Jose looks to limit foreign influence in elections
“On Tuesday, the City Council voted 9-1 to write an ordinance to prohibit foreign-influenced corporations or donors, with no stake in San Jose, from making contributions to local elections. It came before the council with intentions to be applied to the general election in November. The ordinance will come back to council later this year.
Foreign-influenced is defined as more than 1% ownership by a single foreign national or more than 5% ownership by multiple foreign nationals. That would prevent nearly every member of the S&P 500 from making political expenditures in city elections, including Silicon Valley giants Apple, Alphabet (Google) and Meta, according to nonpartisan nonprofit Free Speech for People.
The effort is part of a larger discussion happening at council to make campaigns more fair and transparent following a heated and costly 2020 election. San Jose has toyed with the idea of a pilot program to publicly finance campaigns and make campaign mailers disclose who the top donors are in an effort to show who is paying for ads.
Councilmember Dev Davis was the lone dissenting voice, claiming the half a million dollars required to implement such a policy could be better spent on policing or other city problems such as homelessness. Councilmember Maya Esparza was not present for the vote.
However, many councilmembers and public commenters disagreed, including representatives from Working Partnerships USA, the Council on American Islamic Relations and several unions.
Jaria Jung, a representative from state Asm. Alex Lee’s office, said such a law limiting foreign influence is “crucial” to protecting our democracy and highlighted a similar bill by Lee making its way through the state Legislature.
Councilmember Sergio Jimenez, one of four councilmembers to put this idea forward, said limiting foreign influence is “the very core of our democracy.”
“This is in fact happening and I have no interest in waiting until it happens in San Jose to put something in place,” Jimenez said, pointing to a case where a Mexican national funneled nearly half a million dollars in local San Diego elections through these loopholes.
Federal and state laws already prohibit foreign individuals—other than green card holders—governments, companies and other groups from making contributions or independent expenditures to candidates. However, foreign companies with domestic subsidiaries can make donations as long as the donations are made by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Cities such as Seattle, Washington and St. Petersburg, Florida have implemented stricter campaign finance rules to limit outside influence. San Jose is looking to model its regulations after those cities.
It’s not clear how much influence foreign corporations or entities have in San Jose politics, or which corporations these rules would impact, said Mark Vanni, senior deputy city attorney, who noted a full analysis has not been done.
However, Michael Sozan, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said such money has already been spent in San Jose—pointing to the thousands of dollars donated by Chevron to the now dissolved Silicon Valley Organization PAC and thousands spent by Lyft in San Jose candidate races in 2020.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said he supports limiting foriegn influence, but is worried about future litigation. He said it may be unconstitutional because it limits corporation contributions which violates Citizens United—a 2010 Supreme Court decision that asserted corporations are people and gave them the greenlight to spend unlimited amounts on political ads and political action committees.
“I don’t have a problem doing the right thing knowing we are going to get sued,” Liccardo said. “I have a problem doing the right thing if we know it’s illegal.”
Sozan said these thresholds are defensible and that there haven’t been legal challenges in other cities who have implemented similar laws. Free Speech for People Legal Director Ron Fein agreed.
“A corporation spending money in U.S. elections doesn’t qualify as an ‘association of citizens’ if it has major foreign investors,” Fein said, noting he would provide free legal services if the city is sued.
Contact Jana Kadah at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.