Published 12:00 am, Sunday, June 10, 2018
Photo: Robin Jerstad /
More disclosure about campaign finances is a good thing.
This is not a complicated issue, although there has been some unnecessary and underwhelming foot-dragging on the matter.
In case you missed Express-News reporter Josh Baugh’s story, the city’s Campaign Finance Task Force, led by local businessman Michael Beldon, is recommending better disclosure on the campaign finance reports for City Council candidates. The formal recommendation would require disclosure of the employers and occupations of donors. We will always support greater disclosure of campaign finances and principles of open and transparent government so members of the public can easily draw their own conclusions.
Besides, such disclosures are not unusual. Donors to state- and federal-level campaigns generally require employer and occupation information.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg has expressed general support for better disclosure.
A bit of recent history on this matter: Late last year, the city’s Ethics Review Board rejected such disclosures as well as the idea of quarterly finance reports. Several members of council, as well as Adriana Garcia, chairwoman of the ERB, had expressed concern that better disclosure would squash campaign contributions. The notion being would-be donors might face retribution from their employers.
The problem with this concern is that not only is it unfounded since donor’s names are already disclosed, but it places public interest in a subordinate position.
The public has a right to easily know sources of support for candidates. It can be telling if a particular industry — real estate developers, medical professionals, attorneys, public safety workers, etc. — has shown significant support for a candidate. That support could be viewed, rightfully, as influence.
The task force has also recommended raising contribution limits. At present, council candidates can receive no more than $500 per person for each election cycle, and mayoral candidates are limited to $1,000 per person for each election cycle. The task force recommends raising these limits to $750 and $1,500 under the thinking that it will decrease fundraising efforts by candidates.
We disagree with this recommendation, as did Beldon. There is already too much money in politics, and boosting contribution limits would increase potential influence and likely make it harder for members of the general public to run for office. We doubt it would decrease fundraising efforts.