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Supervisors Raise Contribution Limit for County Races, a Catch-Up Move

Times Staff Writer

Orange County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to raise the limit on campaign contributions for county offices to $1,400 in June -- a 40% jump.

A 1992 ordinance that set the current $1,000 limit required future boards to adjust the amount every two years for inflation, but none did, and Tuesday’s action makes up for that.

Longtime county campaign watchdog Shirley Grindle asked board members Tuesday to reject the hike, requested by Supervisor Chris Norby.

“Not a single one of you has had any difficulty raising money,” she said. “Many of you have had money left in the bank. It’s not fair to go back 11 years to recapture [increases].”

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Grindle singled out Norby, who raised about $500,000 for his primary and runoff campaigns last year, as an example of why a higher limit isn’t needed. She said most of his money came from donors giving $100 to $500 -- half of the current limit.

Norby said he was proud that he’d raised the most money of any supervisorial candidate in recent elections. He beat former Supervisor Cynthia P. Coad, who spent about $600,000 of her own money against him, on top of about $700,000 spent to win the seat four years earlier.

“For a person who can spend personal millions of dollars, there’s no [contribution] limit at all,” Norby said.

Supervisor Jim Silva said he was forced to write additional personal checks in 2000 to defend a tough challenge from former Huntington Beach Councilman Dave Sullivan. Had he been allowed to raise more money from campaign donors, “it would have been easier to keep up with my opponent,” he said.

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Orange County has restricted campaign donations since 1978, when Grindle was instrumental in passing reforms known as TINCUP, or Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics.

The restriction affects anyone campaigning for a countywide seat, with separate donations allowed for primary and runoff elections.

Supervisor Bill Campbell asked for adjustments to be automatic every two years, a change that will be added for a required second reading of the new ordinance next week.

Candidates raising money for 2004 races can go back to donors in June and ask for additional money up to the new cap, county attorneys said.


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