Ventura County supervisors repeal local campaign finance rules … – VC Star

Ventura County supervisors voted 3-2 on Tuesday to repeal a local campaign finance ordinance first adopted 20 years ago to limit large contributions from a single source.
Over the past two decades, the rules set contribution limits, voluntary spending caps and reporting requirements for candidates vying for supervisor and countywide offices. Now, a new ordinance repealing those rules is set to take effect in 30 days.
Without its own ordinance, the county will default to state election law that allows much higher limits. County rules limit contributions to $750 per election while the state permits $5,500.
The change was proposed by Supervisors Jeff Gorell and Janice Parvin, both elected last November. They along with Kelly Long first voted for the repeal on March 14. On Tuesday, they voted to do so again, after a second required public hearing.
Supervisors Vianey Lopez and Matt LaVere voted no. Both said they would support looking at changes but not a full repeal.
“I don’t think the public wants us to do this,” said LaVere, who called the county a leader in campaign finance reform. “I think they’ve been loud and clear that they would rather us take a more measured approach and that’s the approach I would prefer.”
The board received hundreds of written comments about the matter and heard from dozens of speakers before Tuesday’s vote.
The vast majority urged the board to reject the repeal. They asked supervisors to protect voices of average voters instead of favoring special interests with deep pockets. Several asked for a delay until an independent analysis could happen.
Others who supported the repeal said the state system would be more effective and cut down on bureaucracy.
Gorell said he and Parvin had looked at whether to simply raise the local contribution limit, which has not been updated in years.
“The challenge that we wrestled with after that was that to have any limit that was any different than the statewide framework would require us to continue to have our own local bureaucracy,” he said. “And, it is a bureaucracy.”
It requires county staff time, extra paperwork, and additional filing, he said.
The county’s lower contribution limit leads to more independent committee spending, according to Gorell. The number of those committees, which have no limits under a Supreme Court ruling, have ticked up in recent elections, he said.
Others have said independent expenditure committees won’t go away with higher limits on candidate contributions. Lopez said counties with much higher contribution limits also had independent spending committees.
“If we want to be fair, this data should be analyzed a little bit further,” she said Tuesday.
Lopez and several public speakers also suggested any change should go to a public vote.
A petition to overturn the board’s decision could be submitted to the county elections office before the new rules take effect. If enough valid signatures are submitted, supervisors would then have to reconsider the change or send the issue to an election. 
Cheri Carlson covers the environment and county government for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at or 805-437-0260.


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