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Publication Date: Friday, November 21, 2003

Campaign reforms debated Campaign reforms debated (November 21, 2003)

Council discards public financing idea, but will pursue other measures

By Candice Shih

Any differences between next year's city council election and last year's won't be due to changes in public campaign financing.

The council effectively decided during a Tuesday-night study session to drop the idea of publicly financing campaigns, but agreed to further study other ways of improving the election process in Mountain View.

The council plans to implement some new measures by the spring, before candidates for the 2004 election are identified.

They won't include using city money for an election mailer or for matching campaign funds, an idea that quickly fell flat.

"Campaigns need to be very separate from city operations. Campaigns need the perception of being very separate from city operations," said Council member Rosemary Stasek.

Although some of her colleagues favored the low cost of a city mailer, which could equalize the playing field between variously funded candidates, the idea did not receive enough support from the council to be pursued.

Council members did agree to continue future discussion of several new measures, including limits on individual contributions, a cap on a campaign's total contributions, more public disclosure, stated penalties for campaign violations, and regulations for independent political groups.

For Council member Greg Perry, lowering the amount of a contribution that requires disclosure was important. Currently, donors who give $100 or more must be publicly named, and he said it has been too easy for candidates to abuse the privilege of not having to disclose the names of lesser donors.

Agreement was reached on the need to develop penalties appropriate for the type of infraction incurred, for example, exceeding an expenditure limit.

Though council members joked about having to wear a sign of guilt at future council meetings or flashing an announcement of the infraction on the city's Web site, specific penalties were not discussed.

One proposed idea that was immediately discarded, given possible legal issues, was including forfeiture of office as a penalty.

An issue of particular significance to Stasek was self-financing of campaigns. Stasek, who ran low-budget campaigns in her two city council races and her 2002 state Assembly race, expressed concern over the practices of candidates who either loaned or simply gave themselves a sizable war chest with which to campaign.

For Vice Mayor Matt Pear, all of the ideas were a bit too much. "You're trying to micromanage a situation that's fraught with controversy all the way through," he said.

The study session followed several meetings of the Council Procedures Committee, which is composed of Mayor Mike Kasperzak, Council member Matt Neely, and Perry, who all ran in the 2002 election. Concerns regarding the voluntary expenditure limit which was broken by various candidates helped prompt their discussion.

Bruce Karney, who also ran in the 2002 election, and Neely's 2002 campaign treasurer, Steve Olson, were also catalysts, forwarding research and suggestions for action to the council. Council member Mary Lou Zoglin was absent from Tuesday's discussion.

E-mail Candice Shih at cshih@mv-voice.com


 

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