Helping Our Peninsula's Environment

 

Pacific Grove adopts Campaign Finance Reform and Severs Money from Political Decisions

By David Dilworth

We did it !

Its really law !

On September 6, 2006 Pacific Grove Council gave final approval for Monterey County's first Campaign Finance Reform law.

The vote was 5-2 with Lisa Bennett moving adoption joined by Dan Davis, Scott Miller, Susan Nilmeier and Dan Cort (though Cort tried to delay or kill it until he saw it would pass in spite of his efforts). Voting against it were Susan Goldbeck and Ron Schenk.

In February 2006, newly appointed Councilwoman Lisa Bennett agendized creating a committee to prepare a Campaign Finance Reform law. The Council voted 6-1 (Ron Shenk Dissenting) to create such a committee.

The committee included (in alphabetical order) Councilwoman Lisa Bennett, David Dilworth, Councilman Scott Miller, Craig Riddell and Robin Tokmakian. 

After six months of meetings and many drafts, the city committee recommended a systematic, yet short and simple, Campaign Finance Reform law appropriate for Pacific Grove. 

On August 17, 2006 the Council gave the first of two needed approvals for this to become law. With only token opposition from the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce, the Council voted 5 - 2, with only Susan Goldbeck and Ron Shenk voting against the law. 

Councilwoman Lisa Bennett, who introduced this law in February, made the motion to approve it. Scott Miller, who served on the Pacific Grove City Committee to draft this ordinance for the Council seconded the motion and made it clear that the City HAS experienced problems with campaign money harmfully influencing city decisions.

Dan Davis led the discussion on each provision to take Council straw votes to build a final shape to the complex and controversial ordinance. Voting in favor of the law were Lisa Bennett, Scott Miller, Dan Davis, Susan Nilmeier and Dan Cort.

The new law combines several of the best provisions used in other cities. The provisions this law brings together include --

1. Only People Can Contribute to Candidates.

This is the "Can't Vote - Can't Contribute" part. Organizations will no longer be able contribute to a candidate's campaign. Organizations means corporations, businesses, unions, and any other group. Just like voting - only living breathing people can participate.

Contrary to what the Chamber of Commerce has claimed business PEOPLE can contribute, just not businesses. The vital distinction, illuminated by Councilwoman Lisa Bennett, is that people have Constitutional Rights - and businesses and corporations do not. 

2. Disqualification on Contributor's Projects

a) No elected official can vote on a project where a contributor to his/her campaign (of $250 or more) will make more money on the project than the general public would benefit.

b) The mirror version (the Edith Johnsen provision) is also true --

After an elected official has voted on a project, no one can contribute to that elected official who has financially benefited from that vote. (by $250 or more - and they must have benefited differently than the general public).

Many California cities and counties have adopted one or the other of the two provisions described above, but Pacific Grove is the first city we can find to adopt both.

3. Modest Contribution Limits

No person can contribute more than $500 to any candidate in any single campaign. 

Current state law has no limits. So, it would be fully legal for convicted Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling, convicted congressional briber Jack Abramoff or Tom Delay to contribute a million dollars ($1,000,000) to any local election campaign. Pacific Grove’s law would greatly restrict this.

4. Must Collect Contributor Information BEFORE Depositing Check.

While collecting this information is already required by state law, it is widely ignored, and rarely enforced. Cities that have adopted this provision have found greatly increased compliance with state law.
 
 

HOPE Plays Vital Role

HOPE leaders have been working on this issue since 1989. As Common Cause Chair for our region, David Dilworth organized a cross-partisan group to create such a law in Carmel in 1993. In 2003 HOPE organized ten groups to protest County Supervisor Edith Johnsen's taking $1,000 within 60 days of casting the swing vote on that contributor's project, and drafted a model ordinance for Monterey County, supported by 10 groups, to prevent any more outrageous acts like Edith Johnsen's.

In 2005 and 2006 David worked with the League of Women Voters committee to draft their Model ordinance which their Board approved this January. He was then appointed to the Pacific Grove city Committee to draft an ordinance for the Council earlier this year. Finally, HOPE identified some introduced loopholes in the Council's recent revision of this law and when those were brought to their attention the Council approved all of HOPE's suggestions.
 
 

*** Please consider making a generous contribution to HOPE for hand holding this process every step of the way.

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NOTICE
HOPE - Helping Our Peninsula's Environment provides this news free of charge to the public even though it costs the organization considerable time and money to produce it. We would like to continue to provide this service for free that brings you the best available science and law and the highest quality research. You can help right now by making a tax-deductible contribution. Please send your tax-deductible contribution (anything you can afford, whether $1.00 or $10,000) to: HOPE, P.O. Box 1495, Carmel, Ca 93921.

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Thank you,

-David Dilworth, for the Board of Trustees

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This Page Last Updated August 17, 2006

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