FPPC role in campaign finance will go to vote

Orange County voters will be asked whether they want the state's Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce local campaign finance rules, a unanimous Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday.

The district attorney's office currently has the authority to enforce the county's stringent campaign reform ordinance, but no panel is officially tasked with monitoring compliance.

First passed in 1978, the initiative known as "Time Is Now Clean Up Politics" or TINCUP, limits contributions to campaigns for county office to $1,900 — a cap that's adjusted every other year.

If voters approve the ballot measure in November, the district attorney's office would still be able to file criminal charges for violating the ordinance, if necessary, but the non-partisan state agency would be able to take civil and administrative enforcement action.

The FPPC would also undertake periodic audits of candidates' financial reporting,

Ideally, a staff report said, the deal would mirror a similar agreement between the agency and San Bernardino County, which last year became the first county to contract with the FPPC for local campaign rule enforcement.

While the supervisors agreed that enlisting the agency for help would be a positive step toward accountability, longtime county watchdog Shirley Grindle who pushed hard for TINCUP's passage, called the outsourcing option a "band-aid solution."

"Contracting with the FPPC to enforce TINCUP violations would replace what the district attorney does not do," she told the board, adding that the agency wouldn't do an adequate job monitoring the flow of money.

Instead, she said, the formation of a county ethics commission — which the county Grand Jury has recommended on a few occasions — is "on the horizon," which would negate the need for an FPPC contract.

Board Chairman Shawn Nelson stressed that the FPPC is the best, impartial option.

"You are extremely unique — we're not always going to have you," he told Grindle. "The one thing thing they have, as professionally trained attorneys, over any of you or any of us, is continuity."

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