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Campaign Ordinance Survives Legal Attack

September 25, 1996|PETER M. WARREN

Attorney Dana Reed lost his second bid Tuesday to overturn a provision of Orange County's campaign reform ordinance approved by voters in 1992.

U.S. District Judge Gary L. Taylor rejected Reed's request for a preliminary injunction against a provision in the law that limits to $1,000 the size of contributions made by individuals or couples to so-called independent expenditure committees.

The law, enacted in 1992 when voters approved Measure T, sets the same limits for contributions made directly to candidates for county office.

Reed, a well-known Republican activist and campaign law expert, had sought to set up an independent committee to aid three candidates: Assemblymen Scott Baugh (R-Huntington Beach) and Jim Morrissey (R-Santa Ana), and Mark Leyes, who is running for county supervisor. Reed wanted to contribute $8,500 to a committee he helped form, which would mail brochures supporting those candidates.

In briefs and in court Tuesday, Reed's attorney argued that the law limited his client's constitutional rights to associate with like-minded political contributors and to spend money jointly as an expression of their political beliefs.

Independent expenditure committees are set up and run apart from the candidates' campaigns, and there should be no contact between the campaigns and those running the independent committees.

Shirley Grindle, the activist who pushed for the measure, applauded the judge's decision.

"We are very pleased the judge could see the forest through the trees," she said. "We are limiting contributions into a committee, not his personal expenditures. Mr. Reed can spend anything he'd like to on his own."

The law does not limit independent expenditures by individuals.

After the hearing, Reed said he was undecided whether to press the case to trial. Taylor had said his ruling on the preliminary injunction should not be seen as an indicator of how he might rule at trial after the issues were fully explored.

"This is an important issue . . . a significant issue in an election year," Taylor said. "Nothing is as important as the integrity of the political process."

Taylor said Reed's suit, filed in August, probably could not be heard before the November election. Reed is considering whether to pursue the issue, however, because of its impact on future elections, he said.

In 1994, Reed unsuccessfully challenged the ordinance's restrictions on giving by couples, which are the same as the restrictions on individuals.

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