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Whose Interests Are No. 1?

September 25, 1985

Orange County's ordinance regulating the amount of campaign funds that county supervisors may receive is getting its first real legal test in a challenge of its equity by Supervisor Bruce Nestande.

At issue is the county's so-called TIN CUP (Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics) law that disqualifies a supervisor from voting on any issue affecting a major contributor to the supervisor's campaign. Major is currently defined as $1,534. The board was pushed into enacting the novel law in 1978 by the first successful countywide initiative drive in Orange County history. Anticipating approval of the initiative at the polls, the supervisors adopted the measure as law.

Nestande's challenge stems from his current campaign for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. He claims that the county ordinance is hurting his effort to raise money for the statewide race because donors giving more than $1,534 are forced to disclose all their business ties and he would be disqualified from voting on any matters affecting them that might come before the county board. Nestande thinks that this is inequitable. He and his supporters also contend that a county law cannot govern his state race. The county counsel disagrees.

We agree with the county counsel.

Nestande thinks that he is at a disadvantage in the state contest because of the particular reporting requirements placed on his major supporters. But if he were declared exempt from the county ordinance, another inequity would be created: Nestande would then be allowed to cast votes on issues affecting his major contributors while the other board members would be forced to disqualify themselves under the same circumstances.

The court will decide the legal technicalities, but the real issue is whose interests are to be served, those of Nestande or those of the public?

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