New Report Gives Fullerton an ‘F’ on Campaign Finance Laws and Transparency
A newly released report from the nonprofit Citizens Take Action entitled “Integrity in Local Government: A Report Card on Campaign Finance Laws and Transparency in Orange County Municipal Government (2022)” gives Fullerton a failing grade.
Here are some excerpts from the report that explain why Fullerton scored so low, and suggest possible remedies:
Why did Fullerton Score so Low?
Fullerton has not enacted any limits on campaign contributions by individuals or Political Action Committees (PACs). Fullerton also does not have any prohibitions or limits on campaign contributions by prospective city contractors, or on developers seeking approval from local officials. Nor is there a limited fundraising window during which candidates can raise money. The absence of such limits makes local elections and government vulnerable to undue influence from large donors. As a result, Fullerton only received 2 out of 70 possible points for campaign finance limits.
Fullerton received 15 out of 30 possible points for the transparency of campaign finance data. The information on candidates’ campaign contributions and expenditures is on the City’s website, but it is not particularly easy to find, and it only goes back to 2020, which does not cover every sitting elected official.
The combination of a very low score for campaign finance limits and an average score for transparency of campaign finance data resulted in Fullerton receiving a F for its overall grade.
“The consequences of pay-to-play politics at the municipal level are undeniable,” the report says. “Development projects that are approved primarily because of timely campaign contributions can be detrimental to the quality of life for residents. Overpriced, no-bid city contracts awarded to large donors waste money that could be better spent improving parks, assisting residents in need, or enhancing community events and services. Mailers funded by dark money groups can prevent worthy candidates from reaching office. And all the above diminish public trust in government. Fortunately, there are ways to protect elections and government from pay-to-play corruption.”
Recommendations: What can be done?
• Enact campaign contribution limits of $1,000 or less on individuals.
• Enact campaign contribution limits of $2,000 or less on PACs.
• Enact a prohibition on campaign contribution limits of $500 or less on City contractors or developers for a minimum of 6 months or 180 days from the consideration/action by council on the matter.
• Enact a fundraising window of one year or less on candidates running for local offices.
• Add a link to campaign disclosure statements directly to the City website’s homepage.
• Post campaign disclosure statements dating back at least four election cycles on the City’s website.
Here is a list of how Orange County cities scored:
To read the full report visit www.citizenstakeaction.org.
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