Candidates running for Mountain View City Council will now be required to pay up if they violate the city's campaign contribution limits.
After passing an ordinance in April that barred City Council candidates from accepting donations in excess of $1,000, the Mountain View City Council passed a follow-up ordinance at its June 14 meeting that adds a monetary penalty for violating that limit.
If a candidate doesn't opt into the city's voluntary campaign spending limits, they'll be subject to the penalty if they accept more than just $500 from an individual donor.
"The current penalties for violations of those campaign contributions limits are the same as penalties for violations of our voluntary expenditure limit, which essentially are publication penalties, meaning that the violation will be publicized in the newspaper, on the city's website, and physically at city hall,” Assistant City Attorney Diana Fazely said at the Tuesday meeting.
With this new ordinance, which the council passed unanimously, candidates will also be required to pay either $50 or the amount accepted in excess of the contribution limit, whichever is greater, Fazely said.
The new ordinance also bridges the gap between state and city requirements for disclosing contributors on campaign advertisements. Now, the top five contributors of $2,500 or more must always be disclosed on campaign advertisements.
While Councilmember Lisa Matichak seconded the motion to pass the June 14 ordinance, she said she found the original April ordinance unnecessary.
"I still don't think campaign contributions are a problem here in Mountain View because we have the (voluntary) spending limit, but I am supportive of the disclosure part," she said of the new ordinance. "Since it's all together, I'm not going to have much of a choice here but to support the whole thing."
In the 2022 election, all Mountain View City Council candidates opted into the voluntary expenditure limit, vowing not to spend more than $27,094. All cities in California were required to update their campaign contribution rules following the passage of AB 571, which directed cities to either set their own limits or accept the state's default limit of $4,900 – making Mountain View's limits far stricter than the state's.
"At a time when a lot of our democracy seems to be attacked on so many different fronts, it is really kind of amazing how much Mountain View has taken steps to ensure that our democracy remains represented and as free from money influences as we constitutionally can," Mountain View resident Emily Ann Ramos said during public comment. "So I'm incredibly proud of Mountain View and all of you for taking this step."