The challenge with campaign finance reform is striking a balance

California will usher in a new era shortly —campaign finance reform for county officials who hold elected office.

Donors and watchdogs have varying opinions about campaign contributions. Some favor limits that equal the same amount that state assembly and state senators may receive. That totals $ 4700.00 in a primary and another $ 4700.00 in the general election.

These limits will be the law of the law if counties don’t set their own limits. Longtime elected officials Kevin Jeffries and Chuck Washington have put fourth a local policy that will be almost five times greater than what state office seekers can raise. At $20,000.00 this figure revived a 5-0 vote.

The challenge with campaign finance reform is striking a balance. You must also understand that Political Action Committees are not always constrained by new limits. That fact can place the office seeker at a major disadvantage.

If caps are in place for an office holder or office seeker and not the PAC’s or special interests then the scales tip in favor of those who don’t follow the same rules.

Campaign finance reform has a long history or finding its way into the courts. The Supreme Court has ruled donations are part of free speech.  It will take some very specific legal framing to make campaign finance reform fair.

Jeffries has held office for decades. He is in his final f-our year term. He’s a Republican insider and even chaired the county party. Washington is also a longstanding officeholder. He, too, has told his voters this is his final term.  Washington is a Democrat now but has also sought office as a Republican.

Neither will seek office under the terms they have proposed . The duo could raise money under the new terms of campaign finance reform. The heavy lifting on new regulations will be in the capable hands of the board’s attorney Greg Priamos.  He and his team will craft the draft ordinance.

Board staffers from each of the five districts and board members themselves will also take a close look at the new rules that Jeffries and Washington have in store. With Supervisors V. Manuel Perez, Jeff Hewitt, and Karen Spiegel likely planning to seek re-election under the new rules, it will be interesting to watch how they accept or reject the staff’s proposal.

With a pandemic, $100 million in budget deficits,  a search for a new CEO, and the possibility of a recession ahead, the board has its hands full. Adding campaign finance reform to a crowed table is necessary or board members simply accept what the state sees as fair funding.

The public may wish to offer its views. Jeffries and Washington have ensured the process will be transparent. Look for the proposed ordinance to appear on a future agenda sometime in the near future.

The proposed ordinance will also impact the sheriff, district attorney, treasurer, auditor, and assessor. These office holders run a countywide race and may also have views on how proposed limits may impact their own races.

For now, we will watch and wait for the first draft ordinance. You may wish to reach your county supervisor, county attorney, or special interest leaders to express your views on these and other important reforms.


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