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Measure A Limits Candidates' Free Speech

October 27, 2002

Re "County Campaign Laws Need Update," Oct. 20:

Orange County's proposed Measure A is an attack on free speech. Your pro-Measure A column fails to reveal its true impact. Measure A places rigid restrictions on the ability of candidates who don't have personal wealth to raise money, without controls on wealthy self-funded candidates. Measure A protects incumbents and assures that only the rich can afford to run for office.

Measure A makes permanent the $1,000 cap on per-person contributions. No allowance for inflation. No adjustment by the Board of Supervisors. While this cap may have made sense 25 years ago, it now prevents candidates of modest means from keeping up with escalating campaign costs.

The $1,000 cap does not apply to self-funded candidates or their spouses. Wealthy candidates have and will contribute lavishly to their own campaigns, without any legal limits. Free speech is possible only with adequate resources. All must have an equal ability to raise the money to get their message to the public.

The $1,000 cap has not made county government more honest. Since strict campaign limits were implemented in 1978, Orange County has seen one treasurer jailed and county government declare bankruptcy.

Measure A will limit voter choices. In the March 2002 election, six of nine county incumbents ran unopposed. As fund-raising becomes harder for challengers, fewer will run. Uncontested elections will create more public apathy. Measure A will further drive political money underground. Prevented from giving openly, donors will increasingly funnel money through independent expenditure committees. Campaigns will become dirtier as candidates no longer control money spent on their behalf.

Measure A bans certain slate mailers, whereby candidates and causes pool resources to share expenses. Slates allow office seekers with similar values to form coalitions, focusing campaigns on issues rather than personalities.

Real campaign finance reform should make elections more open, honest and fair. Measure A does the opposite. Vote no on A.

Chris Norby


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