Barbra Williamson’s Campaign Financing

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.”

Read more here…

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.

13 thoughts on “Barbra Williamson’s Campaign Financing

  1. I think you dont think its a big deal because your a Williamson supporter. The fact is the rules were violated and she should be held accountable. I will be very worried if the city opts to look the other way.

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  2. FYI, Sojka took 4 grand from Saperstein with the exceeding contributions (on the same day) disguised as contributions from family members.

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  3. Yes, but he returned the money.

    http://www.venturacountystar.com/news/2008/dec/11/review-of-campaign-financing-law-urged/

    QUOTE: David Saperstein is founder and CEO of Five S Capital, a Texas-based partnership that specializes in strategic investments. He owns Hummingbird Nest Ranch, an equestrian center off Kuehner Drive and has donated to various political campaigns over the years.

    This year the Sapersteins also donated $4,000 to Miller and Sojka. Miller returned the money last week because the developer has a project that could be before the city in the coming weeks. Miller said he also returned a $500 donation to Dean Kunicki, who works with the Sapersteins.

    Sojka said Wednesday he also plans to return the money to the Sapersteins.

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  4. Sojka is making a statement by returning the money. I think Miller also returned the money. What about Glen B.? Should he return money?

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  5. Yeah, you’re right. Sojka and Miller both returned the money. I know my suggestion that the money be returned has rubbed Williamson supporters the wrong way. I just think it’s the simplest way to bring the issue to a close. Should she be REQUIRED to return the money, along with Glen Becerra or anyone else? I personally think she shouldn’t be required nor should anyone else. I’m opposed to the belief that contributors should be limited to how much they can donate to a campaign. I believe if someone has 8 grand that they want to contribute to a campaign, they should be allowed to do so.

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  6. Much effort is made to control money and it is much like trying to control water – it will always find a way out. The hammering on Barbra is political – the question is why. Can you check if the rest of the city council members have received money from Saperstein et al? If the waters be stirred, all should be treated equally.

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  7. Old memories, what a way to start a Monday. My father’s business donated to Steve Sojka’s campaign several years ago and then we met him again years later shortly after Lost Canyons opened and it was like he was meeting us for the first time. They get money from all over but its the Sapersteins illegal donations that they always remember, and use against each other for political reasons. If you want something to look into, do what Katie is suggesting and look into the political motivation. I bet he’s starting early on his bid for mayor.

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  8. Mike,

    If the rules said any donation was against the rules I would guess you would support returning the money, regardless of your views on caps on raising money, yes?

    All candidates should follow the same rules.

    But if the donations violate the rules the remains to be debated. I haven’t seen anything suggesting when the city will look at it again.

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  9. Brian has a thread up on his blog over at the Ventura County Star website. I personally think all of the City Council member donations should be looked at for the last two election cycles. Otherwise, it will appear that Steve and Paul are pulling a political stunt. Mike, can you post the donations for the last couple of election cycles?

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  10. I can’t find anything online below state level as far as historical records on campaign contributions. I’ll have to contact the city. As far as this election cycle, I’ll publish them in another post.

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