I was surprised this morning to read in the Simi Valley Acorn about the Barbra Williamson Campaign Finance issue. I assumed the Ventura County Star had a bone to pick which is why the Acorn was leaving the story alone.
“I don’t have any problems with them looking at it; I just don’t like my name being out there being muddied up,” said the council member, who was appointed mayor pro tem at Monday’s City Council meeting. “I don’t think it’s fair that they should do that.”
According to the city’s campaign finance code, contributions may not exceed $1000 from a given business entity or individual. Having said that, I believe the exception and possible confusion is if multiple businesses owned by the same individual contribute to a candidate. Evidently, that combined amount cannot exceed $1000. So, if I want the record to show that both of my businesses contributed to Barbra Williamson’s campaign, I need to make sure that the combined amounts do not exceed $1000.
The contributor in this case is Glen Gerson, who I met at City Council last Monday. Three of the businesses he owned each contributed $1000, an apparent violation. My first impression of Glen is that he’s an honest guy. I suspect he made these contributions without knowledge that it violated campaign finance regulations. The argument appears to be that Barbra Williamson should have known all long, but accepted the contributions anyway.
“The way I interpret what the code says, I have done absolutely nothing wrong,” Williamson said. “All they need to do is take a look at my campaign statement; everything that I have done is in black and white.”
Despite the fact that the city can potentially find some wrong-doing, I suspect that there will be no punitive action. This seems pretty minor, at least by comparison to campaign finance issues around the country.
What really gets me is the volume of cash being casually passed around during these campaigns. Why an incumbent in a local election with either no or few compelling challengers should need to raise $35K or more is beyond me. For years, I’ve fantasized about putting together a non-profit organization with the intent of raising money to put new computers in schools. My fund raising efforts, I suspect, would pale in comparison. Regardless of that sad truth, considering how much money is raised and the “indescretion” is a donation amounting to $3000, how important is this really? Just give the money back and be done with it.
Having looked at the numbers here, I’m not sure this is as big a deal as the newspapers make it seem.