Local elected officials across the Golden State will soon have a cooling-off period to vote on programs that benefit campaign donors.
That means Orange County’s board of supervisors, city council, school board and all other local elected officials across the county will soon be barred from voting on donors who have given more than $250 in the past 12 months.
“This is quite possibly the most significant political reform of the past 50 years. It’s unknown and most people don’t notice it, but it’s a very significant change,” the senator said. Steven Glazer, one of the bill’s authors, said in a phone interview Thursday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed SB1439, which also provides for a 12-month moratorium on receiving campaign contributions if elected officials vote on projects that would benefit potential donors.
It applies to all locally elected agencies in California and is expected to take effect in January. 1.
“This legislation will severely limit current legal pay for gaming activities,” he said.
Locally, the FBI’s renewed focus on campaign finance in an Anaheim City Hall corruption investigation involving Disneyland resort interests has sparked calls for campaign finance reform.
Federal agents have accused former Mayor Harry Sidhu of trying to get $1 million in campaign donations from the ball club through the now-dead Angels Stadium land sale. Team executive contributed directly to his 2018 mayoral campaign.
[Read: Anaheim Council Members Head Into Election While Investigating Campaign Contributions]
Sidhu has not been publicly charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing.
In a pair of affidavits, FBI agents claim Disneyland Resort interests heavily influenced Anaheim City Hall policymaking
Read the FBI affidavit Gentlemen and Gentlemen.
Congressman Trevor O’Neil, one of Sidhu’s former allies on the podium, returned campaign contributions from Angel executives shortly after news of the corruption probe surfaced in May.
Anaheim City Councilman Jose Moreno tried to spearhead a similar campaign finance overhaul in July, but failed to garner enough support from his colleagues. The proposal also applies to PAC spending.
[Read: No Campaign Finance Reform for Anaheim]
According to the California Fair Political Practice Commission, the new state bill does not apply to competitive bidding contracts or labor and employment contracts.
Glazer said the campaign finance reform bill “has broad support from both Republicans and Democrats.”
He added: “I haven’t experienced or seen anyone over-the-radar opposition.”
No objections were listed in the Senate’s analysis of the bill.
Angels executives donated to the parliamentary majority’s campaign ahead of initial sales approval for Angel Stadium in December 2019.
The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce strongly supported Sidhu’s campaign in the 2018 election through independent spending. Shortly after becoming mayor, Sidhu was the first to sign a $425,000 no-bid contract for the Chamber of Commerce to advertise businesses across the city.
[Read: FBI Reveals What Many Anaheim Residents Felt For Years, City Hall is Run By The Chamber of Commerce]
The chamber also created Anaheim First, a residents advisory committee that was supposed to make community spending recommendations to the city council. In 2019, Sidhu helped the chamber team secure a $250,000 no-bid contract to study urban issues.
“In addition to being counter-intuitive, the issue of special interest seeking to influence local decision-making is long-standing, well-documented, and real,” reads the Senate analysis of the bill.
[Read: Private Anaheim Spending Advisory Group Criticized for Ties to Business and Lack of Transparency]
One of Anaheim First’s key members — Gloria Ma’ae — was named to the city council last year to fill the vacancy left by Jordan Brandman.
Ma’ae also serves on the advisory board of the “Support Our Anaheim Resort Political Action Committee,” Disney’s main campaign spending vehicle.
After news of the FBI corruption probe broke, Anaheim officials said they had severed ties with the Chamber of Commerce and Anaheim Forest.
“What you see in your area is no different than anywhere else in the state. Criminal conduct and other pay-to-play programs that have passed the test of current laws,” Glazer said.
Glazer’s bill applies to direct campaign contributions over $250.
“No officer of an agency shall make, participate in the formulation, or in any way attempt to use the official position of the officer to influence decisions in proceedings involving licenses, permits, or other rights of use pending before the agency, if the officer has in the past Deliberately or knowingly received donations in excess of $250 ($250) from a party or an agent of a party within a 12-month period,” the bill reads.
Violation of the newly signed law is punishable by a misdemeanor.
Elected officials can also return campaign donations within 14 days of discovering them, which would allow them to vote on the project
The bill largely mimics the state’s Levin Act, which applies to appointed officials — such as local water board members.
“When we’re trying to instill confidence in any government agency, I’ve always wondered why there is such a big difference between an appointed official and an elected official,” Glazer said.
Spencer Custodio is the Citizens Editor. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org him on twitter @SpencerCustodio.