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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE

Ballot Recommendations

October 27, 2002

The Times endorses selectively, on a case-by-case basis. Here are recommendations for the Nov. 5 election.

*

Measure A

It's scary to imagine what Orange County's political races would look like without Shirley Grindle, the feisty, sandpaper-voiced former engineer who has made a second career of scrubbing local campaigns clean. Her latest attempt, Measure A, is downright tame in comparison with previous reforms but provides needed updates to campaign finance law.

When influence-peddling scandals rocked the county Board of Supervisors in the late 1970s, the volunteer watchdog wrote the TIN CUP (Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics) campaign-finance reform law that prohibited supervisors from voting on matters that affected major campaign contributors. Grindle updated TIN CUP in 1992 to include political action committees.

A year later, Grindle broke new clean-campaign ground in California with a ban on gifts to county employees. She also co-wrote a policy preventing former county officials from lobbying the county for a year after leaving their public jobs.

Ten years after TIN CUP was updated, Grindle offers up Measure A, which has been dubbed TIN CUP 3. The measure tweaks a few aspects of the existing law to align it with recent legal decisions. For example, campaign donations made individually by husband and wife no longer would be considered as a single contribution; each spouse would be able to make a separate contribution of up to $1,000.

The measure would require candidates to file timely post-election statements listing campaign contributions and expenditures. Individual donors also would have to disclose whether they've also made contributions on behalf of a business.

The most significant section gives the county Board of Supervisors power to create an independent panel that would investigate complaints of campaign violations. Normally, this job would fall to the district attorney, but Tony Rackauckas has made it clear that he will prosecute only the most serious campaign violations. That makes sense; it's a waste of public prosecutors' time to chase mundane failures to put all the correct information on a form.

Still, if no one enforces the law, the door opens to a flood of disregard for hard-fought campaign reforms. Measure A would give supervisors the power to create a volunteer panel that would meet to review complaints. It would have the power to assess fines or order candidates to return illicit contributions. We're not calling for the immediate creation of a panel, but it makes sense for supervisors to be able to react swiftly should the need arise.

Campaign finance law is a frustrating venture because shrewd politicians are constantly testing limits. TIN CUP has for more than 20 years kept special interests in check by allowing voters to scrutinize campaign donations.

The latest version of TIN CUP provides a needed update to the necessary business of policing campaign financing. Vote yes on Measure A.

Candidates

The Times endorsed the following candidates for the March primary and continues to recommend that voters elect:

Superior Court judges

Office No. 22: Kelly Ann Maceachern

Office No. 27: Glenda Sanders

Countywide offices

County Clerk/Recorder: Tom Daly

Public Administrator: Vicki Landrus

To see full text of Times recommendations, go to www.latimes.com/recommend.

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