Guest column: Don't let supervisors eliminate campaign contribution limit law

For the last 20 years Ventura County has had one of the most effective campaign reform laws in the state of California.

While we have not eliminated the influence of big money in our county elections, we have significantly limited it. We empowered local citizens’ voices in elections by limiting campaign contributions to $750.

The law also has strict requirements for accountability and transparency to reduce the manipulations by big money donors attempting to get around the law. Importantly, the law has campaign expenditure limits that increase the likelihood that a grassroots funded candidate can compete.

Your small contribution can still make a difference in Ventura County.

On Tuesday, Supervisors Jeff Gorell and Janice Parvin are proposing to eliminate the county’s campaign finance ordinance and all of its protections. Most disturbing, contribution limits would rise from the $750 local limit to the $5,500 statewide limit.

Gorell and Parvin’s stated rationale for repeal is that the local ordinance is not needed any longer since the state limits now apply to local candidates. Their logic simply does not hold water.

Allowing the limits for donations to grow from $750 to $5,500 for county supervisor races is not good government for Ventura County. One couple will be able to give $11,000.

The average citizen’s voice will be drowned out by big money donors. Connection to those donors rather than grassroots supporters will be the focus of far too many county candidates.

Big money interests have consistently fought against campaign contribution limits. Why? Because, in spite of what politicians claim, large campaign contributions buy influence. The larger the better.

Gorell and Parvin unconvincingly state in their letter that influence buying will not be an issue because a new state law states you cannot vote on a project if you have received a donation of more than $250 from an interested party in the previous 12 months. Imagine how easy it is to get around that restriction.

Make your big contribution early in a candidate’s election cycle, even well before they are elected, and then be sure your project or issue arises 12 months after your donation. Easy to do.

They claim the expenditure limits are too low for a campaign. They could simply raise the expenditure limits and keep the local ordinance working in tandem with the state law. But instead they eliminate local control altogether.

They imply that state law and the local county law cannot both apply simultaneously yet that is exactly what 25 counties in California currently do, including Ventura County. If you care about decreasing the influence of big money in politics, you should support lower state contribution limits and continue the benefits of having the restrictions of both state and local laws in effect in Ventura County.

Simply put, the arguments for repealing our important campaign ordinance are so weak that they raise skepticism. They certainly do not hold up to a logical analysis. Most importantly, they do not reflect the standards and values we have set for ourselves for the last two decades in Ventura County.

Most of our citizens have valued making Ventura County a special place in California, far better than the state average. We are better at stopping urban sprawl, better at limiting the influence of big money in politics, better at enhancing the influence of the average citizens over special interests and better at protecting the most disadvantaged because we have reduced the influence of those most inclined to ignore them.

Repealing our current law, removing the $750 contribution limit, reducing transparency and ending the expenditure limits will significantly increase the amount of money flowing into county supervisors’ campaigns. It will give big rollers much more direct influence on Supervisors.

For 20 years we have significantly decreased the influence of big money in our elections for county supervisor. It all could be lost by three votes Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in the Ventura County Board of Supervisors hearing room.

Please attend and speak if you can. If not please send an email to the Clerk of the Board stating your opposition. Mail to

Steve Bennett​​​​​ is a California Assemblymember representing the 38th District​. Linda Parks is the Executive Director of SOAR and former Ventura County Supervisor.

This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Gorell, Parvin trying to eliminate campaign contribution limit law