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FPPC to enforce county's campaign finance reform law
SAN BERNARDINO • When new campaign finance rules take effect Jan. 1, San Bernardino County will also become the first local government agency in California to contract with the Fair Political Practices Commission for enforcement of a local reform ordinance.
The innovative plan is catching the attention of other communities and campaign reform groups, as they look for cost-effective ways to enforce policies free from local influence or political bias.
“Contracting with the FPPC ensures our county’s campaign finance reform laws will be applied effectively and objectively,” said 2nd District Supervisor Janice Rutherford, who proposed the county’s campaign finance ordinance and also recommended contracting with the FPPC rather than creating an internal ethics commission to enforce the rules. “Why add another layer of county government when we already have an independent state agency that is qualified and capable of enforcing our campaign finance law? We can save money and bring greater efficiency by contracting with the state.”
The County of San Bernardino Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance creates a $3,900 per-election-cycle (primary, general and special) cap on contributions to candidates for elected county offices. The cap is based on the state Political Reform Act, which sets contribution limits for candidates for state office.
The ordinance also will require the electronic filing of contributions or expenditures in excess of $10,000 for all candidates and independent expenditure committees, require contributors to notify receiving candidates about whether contributions must be aggregated with contributions from other entities, and establish administrative, civil and criminal penalties and fines for violation of the ordinance.
Violations would be considered misdemeanors, and subject to fines of up to three times the amount the person failed to report properly or unlawfully contributed, expended, gave or received, or $10,000, whichever is greater.
The ordinance also requires the county Registrar of Voters to place on the county’s website a copy of each campaign statement within one working day of the statement being filed with the Registrar of Voters.
The two-year contract approved Tuesday provides up to $493,296 in spending authority for the FPPC to:
• Audit each candidate campaign committee for the offices of Supervisor, Sheriff-Coroner, District Attorney, Auditor-Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector, Assessor, and County Superintendent of Schools.
• Provide at the FPPC’s discretion written or verbal assistance to candidates regarding the ordinance.
• Serve as the civil and administrative prosecutor for violations of the ordinance.
“The new contract with the FPPC ushers in a new era of scrutiny in San Bernardino County that I feel the community will welcome,” newly seated 3d District Supervisor James Ramos said.
“This is a wise move,” Chair Josie Gonzales said. “People will know where will be an immediate reaction when something needs to be investigated.”
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