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Campaign Limits Favor Wealthy Candidates

April 28, 2002

Re "Spending Limits OKd in Special Elections," April 17:

Before the Board of Supervisors extends county finance restrictions to special elections, it should consider the following:

The current county code severely restricts what middle-class candidates can receive in contributions from their supporters. Yet it allows wealthy candidates to contribute unlimited amounts of their own money to their own campaigns. While the county code restrictions may have been intended to reduce the influence of money in elections, it gives wealthy candidates an unfair advantage over those who must rely on the generosity of supporters.

The restriction also discriminates against married couples, allowing them to contribute only half as much as single people. A single person may give $1,000. If a husband contributes $1,000, for example, his wife can give nothing. This raises serious equal-protection questions.

Have campaign restrictions opened up the political process? In the March primary, six of nine county incumbents ran unopposed. With few local choices, voter turnout sank to record lows.

Changes in the law are needed to level the political playing field. Restrictions on political giving have become restrictions on free speech.

Chris Norby

Fullerton City Council

Mike Alvarez

Orange City Council

Kermit Marsh

Westminster City Council

Editor's note: Norby was recently elected to the Board of Supervisors.

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