Here are a lot of good examples, and we’ve stuffed the main post with a lot of information as well.
Whatever you do, DON’T COPY A LETTER VERBATIM. Make it sound like you! You don’t have to make a long letter – it can just be one point!
Floodgates have been opened for campaign cash
I am so disappointed with the Board of Supervisors. Jeff Gorell, in his signature action as supervisor, has voted to scrap the Ventura County Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance.
This ordinance supplemented the state Political Reform Act and worked in tandem with it, and Supervisor Kelly Long supported its last update in 2017.
It is incorrect that there were no laws pertaining to contributions in 2003, as the article states. This can be confirmed by searching “contribution limits history” at .
The individuals who were subject to the ordinance were candidates for supervisor, sheriff, district attorney, county clerk, treasurer-tax collector, auditor, county superintendent of schools and assessor.
This ordinance— which Gorell, Long and Janice Parvin now find inconvenient—promoted integrity of our election process, reduced the appearance of influence resulting from large campaign contributions, mandated timely reporting of campaign information, and appointed a compliance officer and a five-member commission from each of the county’s five districts to preside as triers of fact and law at evidentiary hearings.
Gorell is speaking out of both sides of his mouth when he whines that the compliance officer isn’t a “full-time investigative staff” while his solution is to get rid of it altogether.
Gorell also owes all the members of the County Finance Ethics Commission over the last 20 years an apology for stating they did not have a backbone. Shameful.
The new big-money campaign finance rules are simply a betrayal of the people of Ventura County. The year 2023 is looking pretty grim for our beautiful county, thanks to this greedy move.
Please keep our elections fair. Reject this big-money move.
Susan Wells Santa Susana
Campaign finance rules will skew elections
| April 14, 2023
t is with great regret I write this letter.
As I suspected, with the recent election of Jeff Gorell to our county Board of Supervisors (District 2, representing Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks) he has immediately moved to increase future campaign contribution limits from $750 to $5,500.
This right-wing individual was helped by the indirect contributions from the Republican Party machine and the same individuals that work from forums which can mislead the average voter. These voices can come from a religious pulpit or rightwing organizations who know how to undermine local elections in the old-fashioned method of buying elections.
This is accomplished by not playing on a level field. The average local voter cannot donate more than what has been allowed up to now, $750. This was able to allow local elections to stay local by allowing meaningful participation by a larger portion of our neighbors.
Now the high-stakes donors will have a louder voice and elect individuals who are more friendly to developers, radical right laws and policies, and lax health controls in future pandemics, which could cost lives and injuries in our community.
We have recently seen this happen locally by a local radical preacher who refused to follow the law. We will never know how many of his flock were affected.
Unfortunately, Gorell is made of the same cloth. With his election, we have lost a truly local approach to government. He has wasted no time in reshaping our local politics.
Unless our local voters realize the dangers of how Gorell and company have started to change our elections, our great community is doomed. God help us all.
Finance rules betray residents – Supervisors wrong to OK repeal
On March 14 and 28, the Board of Supervisors, led by Supervisors Janice Parvin and Jeff Gorell, hastily introduced their proposal to repeal the campaign finance ordinance in its entirety. On a 3-2 vote, aided and abetted by Supervisor Kelly Long, they eliminated local contribution and expenditure limits so they can raise and spend more money.
They did this despite hundreds of emails and more than 80 public comments opposing the repeal, which outnumbered those in support by at least 7-to-1.
I was one of those commenters. I asked the board to keep the law in place and reject the proposal to repeal it. I asked Supervisors Parvin and Gorell to not insult the voters’ intelligence with their excuse that by letting candidates raise thousands more dollars per contributor, it would cause independent expenditure committees to spend less.
Gorell and Parvin say that “we’ve been lazy as a county” in monitoring and adjusting the contribution limit for inflation and that “we don’t have the ability at the county level” to do that. Well, since the law was adopted, the Board of Supervisors routinely updated the ordinance, including raising the contribution limits.
They complain that people must track campaign donations for different offices on different websites and that “people don’t understand there’s a difference.” Saying that people don’t know how to navigate websites is a poor excuse and shows contempt to constituents.
Supervisors Gorell, Parvin and Long heard overwhelmingly from local constituents that, like most Americans, they favor less money in politics, not more. Yet these supervisors voted to have their contributors give them up to $5,500 per person instead of $750.
Ventura County is special for many reasons, one of which is that we value the efficacy and integrity and fairness of our local electoral process. Only Supervisors Matt LaVere and Vianey Lopez heard and valued and supported the overwhelming voice of the community.
Any next steps in this matter is now up to the citizenry. It is clear that it is up to us to keep our elections open, transparent and fair because the board majority does not share our values.
Repeal of Ventura County campaign finance ordinance
Ventura County residents were the victims of a hit and run on March 14. The county’s Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance was “smashed” that day, but on March 28 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 was no less persuasive.
Why supervisors approved appeal
Re: your March 30 story, “Supervisors repeal county’s campaign finance rules”:
I have no problem with raising campaign donation limits, as three of our county supervisors did last week, but we should all ask why they did it. After all, the only individuals benefiting from what amounts to a massive re-election raise are those three supervisors. County voters get nothing, and none will ever be able to match the election clout of the wealthy individuals and special interests that will be providing those three supervisors with 750% more money to spend.
So, why? Here’s what I think.
First, it takes X-amount of dollars to run a race for supervisor and up until now these races have been open to many candidates. While these races have always been dominated by candidates from the two major parties, other less-endowed candidates have always been able to finance low-cost campaigns and add their own ideas to the political discussions.
This will now change and despite being non-partisan elections these supervisor races will be limited to a Democrat and a Republican simply because of the massive re-election raises they’ve given themselves.
Secondly, 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.
I voted for Janice Parvin in this last election, and I have to ask my supervisor, “Why have you gone against the will of the voters to give yourself a massive re-election raise?”
Gary Selvaggio, Simi Valley
Sign petition on contributions
Thank you for printing stories and your wonderful editorial regarding campaign contributions.
What is the real reason for Jeff Gorell’s effort to get rid of Ventura County’s very low campaign contribution limit? Could it be that he’s trying to settle a grudge? Could it be he feels hamstrung by Linda Parks and her very reasonable limit on contributions? He called her out again, tugging at his collar, and fuming that Linda supported his opponent. He again made it clear that this was personal. How dare she?
You might say “so what?” But here’s the thing: We all think too much money is being spent on political campaigns — and that goes for other Ventura County officials as well. And don’t forget our beloved sheriff — he collects his pension of $180,000 and now also collects $332,000 for his new position. Look it up.
There is something we can all do now. Sign the petition that puts campaign contributions in the hands of taxpayers.
Joan Edwards, Westlake Village
OPINION: Bennett and Parks: Don’t let supervisors gut campaign finance rules on Tuesday
By Assemblymember Steve Bennett and Linda Parks
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 grass-roots funded candidate can compete.
Your small contribution can still make a difference in Ventura County.
On Tuesday, March 14, newly elected 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 grass-roots 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.
— Steve Bennett is a California assemblymember representing the 38th District . Linda Parks is the Executive Director of SOAR and former Ventura County supervisor. Steve Bennett wrote the county campaign contribution legislation in 2002 and updated it every two years until 2016.
OPINION: Tell county supes not to trash campaign-finance rules
The current proposal from the new three-seat right-wing majority on Ventura County’s Board of Supervisors, to remove the $750 cap on campaign contributions in future supervisors’ elections, reveals the unfortunate truth that big money, and especially big oil money, now has full control of the reins of our local government.
The proposal to instead allow individual donations of up to $5,500 in future supervisors’ elections will leave big-money interests — think also developers, SOAR opponents, climate-change deniers — at an enormous advantage over future citizen candidates. The new right-wing board majority all voted yes March 14 to raising the donations cap to $5,500, thus likely helping their own re-election campaigns solicit big money next time around.
(See March 17 Ojai Valley News article, “Supes repeal VC campaign-finance rules.”)
So here is a brief summary of the recent political coup by the oil industry, with its supporters now in control of our county Board of Supervisors.
The three supervisors who make up the new right-wing majority are newly elected supervisors Jeff Gorell, representing Thousand Oaks and parts of Camarillo, and Janice Parvin of Simi Valley and Moorpark; and re-elected in 2020 Kelly Long, representing Camarillo, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula and Fillmore.
A Feb. 19, 2020 Desert Sun article described how California Resources Group, which then owned 27% of all active oil wells in Ventura County, was the only major donor listed in 2020 to the independent expenditure group called For A Better Ventura County. It spent $800,000 to support or oppose candidates for the three supervisors’ races in 2020.
Long also received $175,000 in oil money for her initial campaign for supervisor in 2016.
Independent expenditure groups are allowed to accept and spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. This group backed winner Long in 2020 and opposed (unsuccessfully) Supervisors Matt LaVere, who represents the Ojai Valley, and the late Carmen Ramirez.
Then-Supervisor Steve Bennett remarked at the time, “We’ve never had an independent expenditure campaign anywhere near this large in the county supervisors races.”
They are also backed by the Western States Petroleum Association, which spent $41 million lobbying for their industry in California between 2015 and 2019.
So with their newfound power over Ventura County, what will we see the oil and gas companies looking for? They’ll work to minimize county regulations and oversight of their operations.
They’ll want to drill as much as they can, to maximize profits for their shareholders. They’ll seek the freedom to freely pollute our air and water. They’ll get out of spending a lot of money to safely cap their abandoned oil wells.
We have grown relaxed under a Board of Supervisors that instructed county staff to craft beneficial policies protecting our citizens and the environment. Now, county staff will be instructed by the new right-wing board majority to weaken those current regulations, including the Conditional Use Permits that govern oil and gas operations across the county, and buffer zones for new oil wells near schools and homes.
Then there are the other targets of big money groups — developers, polluters and the like — which means that county land-use policies, pollution protections, and more, will be at risk.
We can no longer be relaxed about what the majority of our Board of Supervisors is up to.
How did Long respond to criticisms of her gigantic campaign contributions from the oil industry, during the March 14 board meeting’s first reading of the proposal to remove the $750 contributions cap? She came up with a bizarre “poor me” story, saying, “To tell me you only got voted because of the amount of money you spent really disheartens me.”
Dark days are suddenly upon us in Ventura County, and our citizens will need to be rising to the defense of the policies and regulations that protect us, and continuing to do so nonstop until a majority of environmentally concerned supervisors can take back control of the board from big money.
While Los Angeles County has banned new oil wells, and Santa Barbara County works to regulate the oil industry, Ventura County will be wide open for their business. Remember, they did all this with about $1 million. That’s not a lot of money to buy a county. Ventura County has elected liberal legislators at the state and federal levels, but we’re now stuck with a Board of Supervisors whose majority is in the position to eradicate popular protections for the average citizen and their environment.
Are you up to playing your part to protect us against this? It will be a time-consuming and bumpy ride. There is no other option. Here’s hoping to see you all on Tuesday, March 28, at 10:30 a.m. at the Board of Supervisors meeting to tell supervisors to retain the county’s campaign spending limits.
— Alasdair Coyne of Upper Ojai is conservation director of Keep Sespe Wild.
Editorial: More examination needed before scrapping campaign contribution law
It didn’t take long for the new majority on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to assert itself and make a clear statement that change is in the air.
Less than three months into their new roles, Supervisors Jeff Gorell and Janice Parvin asked their colleagues to scrap a 20-year-old county law designed to promote public trust in government by strictly limiting the amount of money that individuals and groups can contribute to candidates for county political offices.
With the assent of Supervisor Kelly Long, the board voted 3-2 this week to move forward with the idea, and now will take a final vote in two weeks to make the action official. Once that county ordinance is off the books, county elections will be governed by a more permissive state law. That will mean candidates for county political offices will be able to accept checks for up to $5,500 — a substantial increase over the existing county limit of $750.
Those state limits, by the way, are much more generous than federal law. The candidates running for U.S. Senate in California next year will have to abide by federal restrictions that limit contributions to $2,900.
In making their case for the change, Gorell and Parvin write in a letter to the board that the existing limits are excessively low. As a result, they assert, “independent expenditure committees form because candidate committees cannot fundraise what is needed to effectively reach the constituency of their district.”
While it is easy to understand the supervisors’ frustration with the role of independent expenditure committees, which are outside the control of candidates and can accept and spend unlimited amounts, the suggestion that the higher state contribution limits will somehow make these groups disappear is puzzling.
Consider that in last year’s election cycle, independent expenditure groups spent nearly $78 million on state legislative races — campaigns in which every candidate was governed by the same statewide limits that would apply going forward in Ventura County.
The biggest spenders were the oil industry, the housing industry and labor unions. Considering the financial stakes these groups have in the regulatory and spending decisions made by government policymakers, they will not be persuaded to refrain from attempting to influence Ventura County voters just because candidates will be able to raise more money on their own.
There should be no doubt that higher contribution limits will fundamentally change the way campaigns are conducted and financed in Ventura County. Consider that Supervisor Parvin spent $162,000 in her successful campaign last fall. Under the existing limits, that means she had to receive contributions from at least 216 supporters. With the new limits, she could theoretically raise that much at a single dinner with 30 well-heeled contributors.
Gorell and Parvin did put forth good arguments to make the change — notably the fact that state law has changed over the last 20 years to guard against undue influence from those who contribute to local political campaigns. A new law took effect this year — and, thus, its effect is as yet untested — that prohibits local officials from voting on any project in which the applicant has contributed $250 or more to their campaigns in the last year.
Given that, they argue, what is the justification for Ventura County’s more stringent limits? Perhaps the Ventura County ordinance has indeed outlived its usefulness.
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.
Have independent expenditure committees been less engaged in counties that abide the higher state limits? Has there been a significant difference in the amount candidates have been able to raise and spend per-voter in counties with more stringent limits than the statewide standard, such as San Diego ($900) or Contra Costa ($2,500)? Would increasing the Ventura County limits be a better option than just throwing out the law?
There’s a new majority on the board, and change is to be expected. But when change comes, it should happen after issues have been thoroughly and publicly examined. That wasn’t the case here. There’s still time to make it right.