One week after Ventura County Supervisor Frank Schillo announced he won't seek reelection in 2002, he is pushing to impose campaign contribution limits on future candidates.
Schillo wants to resurrect a 1991 county ordinance that capped individual contributions at $750 in a primary election and $250 in a general election. According to a report going before the board today, those limits also would apply to companies or committees "set up to benefit or defeat any candidate."
The proposal, which has irked at least one prospective candidate, also underscores mounting tension between Schillo and Supervisor Steve Bennett.
Bennett crafted Ventura's campaign finance law when he was a City Council member, and writing one for the county was a major part of his platform for supervisor last November.
Schillo said he has been advocating campaign reforms since April and could no longer wait for Bennett to bring forth his proposal.
"I talked to [Bennett] two different times, and he said he would have something by early July," Schillo said Monday. "Now it's late July and he still has not come up with anything."
Bennett said he's been working on the measure since he took office in January, but got sidetracked with such issues as hiring a new chief executive officer, passing a budget, drawing new supervisorial district lines and dealing with an ongoing labor dispute.
"I think the taxpayers wanted me to work on those issues first," he said. "For me, what was important was to do the bill right rather than to do the bill fast."
Bennett said he will submit his own, more comprehensive campaign finance reform law in the next two months.
Supervisor Kathy Long said she won't support Schillo's proposal, either. It would be unfair to pass a new law when some candidates have already begun fund-raising, she said, and the county simply has too much on its plate to deal with the issue now. Supervisor Judy Mikels could not be reached for comment.
While Supervisor John K. Flynn said he generally supports Schillo's effort, he said he would like to see the donation caps made even lower and wants to require that all contributions be posted weekly on the Internet.
The 1991 county ordinance reintroduced by Schillo was changed in 1996 to reflect a new state law that was later found to be unconstitutional, leaving the county with no law restricting the amount of money that could be raised in a political campaign.
Schillo said whether his proposal passes or fails, it was important for him to bring it forward before candidates begin filing for the November 2002 county race. He limited contributors to $100 each in his 1998 campaign, although he did accept a $2,000 contribution last summer from Newbury Park-based Hidden Valley Assn., according to financial statements.
Thousand Oaks Councilwoman Linda Parks, who has talked for months about running for Schillo's seat and plans to make an announcement in the next two weeks, said the proposal appeared to be a direct attack on her and fellow council member Ed Masry.
Masry, Parks' close City Council ally and the real-life attorney depicted in the film "Erin Brockovich," spent nearly $200,000 of his own money on his November council campaign.
While Parks said she's supportive of contribution limits and vowed she wouldn't accept "large" donations from anyone, she questioned Schillo's timing.
"He's had seven years in office in which to do campaign reform, so it seems like he's gotten onto the bandwagon pretty late," Parks said.
Herb Gooch, chairman of the political science department at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, said it is difficult to believe that Schillo's proposal isn't aimed at Parks.
"Obviously, he's looking at the politics of who is going to succeed him," Gooch said. "Maybe he's doing it out of the goodness of his heart, and maybe it's because he's afraid of Masry's fund-raising."
Schillo, a former Thousand Oaks council member himself, denied that his effort had anything to do with the councilwoman's impending candidacy.
"I spend about four-tenths of one second in a year thinking about Mrs. Parks," he said. "It has nothing to do with her. I bring things up because I feel they're necessary."