FPPC Now Has County Campaign Law Sway

(July 27)  Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Tuesday a bill that provides for the California Fair Political Practices Commission to serve as the lead enforcement agency for a campaign finance ordinance now under consideration by San Bernardino County.
Third District Supervisor Neil Derry three years ago floated the concept of creating a county ethics commission that would have authority over possible campaign finance reform. Ultimately, the board rejected creating an ethics panel but last year First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt and Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford introduced a campaign finance ordinance.
In February, a majority of supervisors expressed support in concept for an ordinance imposing campaign contribution limits on county office candidates modeled after limits in state legislative races, allowing individuals to give no more than $3,900 per election cycle. Additionally, small contributor committees would be limited to $7,800. The ordinance would also prevent contributors from attempting to get around the limits by providing money to candidates through intermediaries. The ordinance would require committees that spend or raise more than $10,000 and participate in local elections to file statements electronically.
With the passage of Assembly Bill 2146, authored by Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, the Fair Political Practices Commission is now empowered to enforce contribution limits and disclosure requirements for county races. Supervisors said they would now bring the ordinance containing the $3,900 contribution limit proposal to an official vote, perhaps as early as August 21.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission, which employs 80 and is headquartered in Sacramento, investigates alleged violations of the state Political Reform Act, sending warning letters to offenders with regard to offenses deemed less egregious, and in more substantive cases levies penalties in the form of penalties or court actions that theoretically can remove an offender from office.
“This legislation provides the county with an effective and affordable means of policing campaign contribution and spending rules,”  Rutherford said in a press release. “Now the board can move forward with adopting campaign finance rules that limit campaign contributions and help thwart influence peddling by deep-pocket donors. I thank Assemblyman Cook for his leadership and support of San Bernardino County’s efforts to institute meaningful campaign finance reform. By contracting with the FPPC to police campaign finance regulations, the county can avoid the conflicts of interest and budget-busting costs of forming an internal ethics commission.”
“Without adequate enforcement, campaign finance rules are toothless,” Cook said. “This is a major victory for the public and for voters in San Bernardino County. The FPPC is a proven watchdog agency, with 40 years of experience in rooting out abuses and violations of campaign finance law. AB 2146 will assist the county in setting much-needed limits on political contributions to candidates running for county office, and it will help prevent corruption.”

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