Of all my volunteer projects, one of my proudest has been my work for the California Clean Money Campaign. This grassroots organization has done more to shine a light on the funding of the political process than any other group in the state. You can learn more about them, here.
It takes money to run a successful race, but special interests who fund you often come calling later. Voters need good information on who is influencing those who make decisions for them. The Clean Money folks have worked hard to make that happen.
Given my background in this arena, I have been adamant that I will not accept money in my District 5 race from those who have business pending before the City Council.
Part of the appeal of our new district races for me was the leveling of the playing field. The districts are small, so we don’t need to raise as much as those who ran citywide.
I always advise voters to look at the fundraising reports online because they are often a pretty reliable predictor of how elected officials will vote. You can go here and click on the District tabs on the left side to see fundraising totals in the Form 460 filings.
Candidates also have to file Form 700s, which state their income in the City of Ventura. These are available at the City Clerk’s office and by law they are required to show them to you. They provide a picture of what council members may need to recuse on and who they have been beholden to in the past.
There are also Political Action Committees and other groups who endorse candidates. You’ll see filings from these outside groups here. By law, PACs can’t coordinate with candidates, but they aren’t subject to the same fundraising limits candidates are. Many of the same donors who gave to the candidates also donated to the PACs.
As a note of explanation, candidates only have to list donors who give $100 or more – smaller donors are rolled up in the totals received. All candidates are limited to receiving $325 from any individual. But if somebody really likes you, their spouse, children, aunts and uncles can also pitch in.
I’m really proud of what I’ve raised so far. I have almost 150 donors, mostly in the smaller range that is not itemized. They’re my neighbors, electeds and city leaders who have endorsed me, folks I know from my volunteer work, former bosses, and others who believe in me. Then there’s my friend Melina, a single mom of two who sends me $25 when she can.
There is a big-money train that often propels candidates to victory in this town. Glancing over the money all the candidates have received, you will see a lot of development and real estate interests involved in our council races.
If you’re not sure who somebody is, do some detective work. It can be very enlightening.
Part of my reason for running was to provide more transparency to City Hall. Campaign finance is just the beginning.