A subcommittee studying municipal campaign reform recommended Thursday that the San Diego City Council make several changes in election procedures in time for fall elections.
Most of the proposals were minor. The most significant recommendation made by the enforcement subcommittee of the 3-month-old Campaign Review Task Force was an ordinance that would prohibit campaign contributions from being deposited until all required donor information has been obtained.
Some candidates have reportedly made a practice of submitting long lists of donations to the City Clerk without also including contributors' names and addresses as state law requires. The proposed ordinance would outlaw that practice, task force chairman Mark Nelson said.
If, after a three-day waiting period, a campaign treasurer still doesn't know the name, address and occupation of the person who sent in a check, his course would be clear under the the new ordinance: "You send the check back," Nelson said.
The full task force is to consider the recommendations at its meeting June 28. After that, Nelson plans to go before the City Council, starting with the Rules Committee on July 8.
The subcommittee has set aside a dozen "meatier" issues for additional study. These include whether the city attorney's office, the district attorney's office or some independent body should enforce municipal election laws, whether children should be permitted to contribute to campaigns, and what penalties should be set for violations.
Although campaigning for fall elections is already under way, the city charter allows the council to adopt new campaign laws immediately, without the usual two readings and 30-day waiting period required for other ordinances, deputy city attorney Stuart Swett said.
However, the changes cannot be retroactive, meaning contributions deposited before the adoption of an ordinance would not be affected, Nelson said. Moreover, the task force may recommend that the changes take effect for the general election in November but not for the primary in September, he said.
Although a majority of the subcommittee endorsed the changes, member Caryl Iseman objected to the proposed ordinance and accused her colleagues of trying to rush campaign reform for reform's sake.
"I'm not going to support anything piecemeal," Iseman said. "We haven't clarified the issue (of the disclosure requirements). I'm not going to support something just for this election."
"The City Council wanted us to try to do something," subcommittee chairman Greg Garratt said. "Most of the recommendations are administrative. I don't think there's as much as we would like."
Those recommendations include:
- That the city attorney and city clerk's office hold a seminar on campaign law in late July for candidates, their treasurers and consultants.
- That the city clerk's office post lists of all required campaign reports and that the city attorney list all 1985 opinions on election issues.
- That campaign committees be permitted to deposit funds in a bank, a savings and loan or some other financial institution--not just a bank as the current law allows. It prescribed a deadline of three days after receipt for depositing contributions.