Orange County voters approved two new ballot measures in the state’s primary election early June. The first will establish an ethics commission to enforce local campaign finance laws while the second will require the city to better inform Orange County residents how much future measures will cost the taxpaying public.
The proposed campaign finance ethics commission drew the most scrutiny, especially after Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer engaged in a vicious verbal battle over Measure A. Measure A was the brainchild of Shirley Grindle, who has tried to enforce the TINCUP, or the Time is Now Clean Up Politics ordinance. Grindle says that TINCUP has no enforcement mechanism and says that Rackauckas has done nothing to enforce the ordinance.
Under Measure A, the ethics commission’s executive director will have subpoena power to enforce TINCUP. It will also establish an administrative hearing process for violations of county ordinances and TINCUP provisions and give the executive director the power to investigate civil violations. The ethics commission will hear appeals and report to the county Board of Supervisors.
The ruckus between Rackauckas and Spitzer came to a head after Rackauckas called a news conference in early June attacking Spitzer for doing robocalls to voters on the Measure A issue. Rackauckas alleged that Spitzer’s robocalls gave voters the false impression that Spitzer was still the county’s assistant district attorney. The feud between Rackauckas and Spitzer began years ago when Rackauckas fired Spitzer from his position as assistant district attorney.
Measure B, the other ballot measure that Orange County voters approved on California’s primary elections on June 7, will change the county’s charter to mandate what the county’s auditor-controller review all future ballot measures to analyze how much they will cost taxpayers. State ballot measures are already analyzed by the state’s comptroller to assess the financial impact, but Orange County’s Measure B is one of the first of its kind at the county level.
Even without the auditor-controller review called for by Measure B, the cost of Measure A, which will create a Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission, will cost about $300,000 to taxpayers, mainly in salary for its executive director. Proponents like Shirley Grindle say that a commission is necessary to make sure that local politicians follow campaign finance laws.
Grindle wrote in the Orange County Register that safeguards will be put in place to keep county supervisors from appointing cronies to the commission. Measure A includes a ban on county, state and federal lobbyists, campaign consultants, and any person who provides campaign services to county officials. The OC Register recommended a “No” vote on Measure A, saying that the Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission would be a paper tiger that could stifle other initiatives to enforce campaign finance laws. The OC Register recommended a “Yes” vote on Measure B.
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