Voters Could Decide on State Enforcement of OC Campaign Finance Law

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County supervisors are scheduled to decide whether to put a measure before voters in November that would allow a shift in civil enforcement of the county’s campaign contribution limits to the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

If supervisors move forward, it likely would signal a rejection of a recent grand jury recommendation that an independent local ethics panel oversee enforcement of the law, known as TIN CUP.

Even if the state commission takes over civil enforcement, criminal prosecutions of that law would still remain with the district attorney. And the Fair Political Practices Commission staff hired by the county would be financially dependent on the supervisors.

This year’s grand jury recommended creation of a totally independent ethics commission with its own financing so that enforcement wouldn’t be limited by the amount of money the supervisors were willing to put in the budget. They estimated the annual cost at $500,000.

“Clearly, it is a conflict for government officials whom the (ethics) commission monitors to have ultimate control over the commission, including appointment and budget,” the grand jurors wrote.

“Clearly it is also a conflict for the DA’s office to have responsibility for investigating and prosecuting violations of campaign laws, when, in fact, the DA is an elected official who campaigns for office,” the report added. “Both of these are cases of the “fox guarding the henhouse.”

Click here to read the proposed ballot measure’s text.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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