Supervisors Take Step Toward Campaign Contribution Limits

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– – The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors today took the first step toward implementing campaign contribution limits for county elected offices when the Board directed county staff to draft an ordinance for putting caps on donations.

“Large campaign donations often give the impression of undue influence on public officials,” said First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who co-sponsored the proposal with Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford. “Given San Bernardino County’s history, this is a necessary step toward restoring the public’s trust in their county government.”

The County Administrative Office, with the assistance of County Counsel, will next prepare a county ordinance and/or draft state legislation to impose and enforce limits on contributions from individuals, businesses and political action committees in elections for county offices.  The Board of Supervisors will consider adopting resulting legislation in the near future.

Contribution limits for the office of County Supervisor will likely be modeled after limits established for California Legislature candidates, which are currently $3,900 from individuals per election cycle and $7,800 per election cycle from small contributor committees. In addition, County staff will investigate the legal viability and effectiveness of other campaign finance reform measures such as certain limited expenditure limitations for candidates and disclosure requirements for independent expenditure committees.

County staff will also research methods for enforcing the new rules. One possibility is contracting with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which would require state legislation. The FPPC currently enforces state law on campaign contributions and expenditures and would provide an experienced and fully independent agency to ensure compliance with the local regulations.

In the State of California, 13 counties and 98 cities have enacted campaign finance reform measures to improve public trust in local government, create higher levels of transparency, and to limit the influence of special interest groups, such as unions, developers, political action committees, and others.

The 2008-2009 San Bernardino County Grand Jury recommended establishing “reasonable” campaign contribution limits from individuals and groups to restore trust in County government and to create a level playing field in the local political arena.

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