Laura Capps announcing a multi-point plan to change campaign contribution spending rules.
Laura Capps on Wednesday announced a multi-point plan to change campaign contribution spending rules in Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors contests. (Contributed photo)

Laura Capps on Wednesday announced a multi-point plan to change campaign contribution spending rules in Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors contests.

Capps, a member of the Santa Barbara Board of Education, is challenging incumbent Das Williams for the First District supervisor’s seat in the March 3 primary election. 

At a press conference Wednesday in front of the County Administration Building, Capps said she wants to establish an independent ethics commission, limit campaign contributions to $1,000, and ban contributions from anyone with business before the board, and all contributions during their first two years in office. 

“I am raising the bar on accountability because I am 100 percent committed to ensuring that everyone in Santa Barbara County can see for themselves how our government works and who is influencing our lawmakers,” Capps said. “I believe in honest decisions, openly arrived at — not back-room deals.”

Capps also said she would disclose on her website any donations received on a monthly basis, the amounts of those donations and the dates they were received.

She wants to establish quarterly campaign donation disclosures for all elected officials under county jurisdiction. 

The reforms were designed to hit at Williams, who accepted $60,000 in donations from members of the CARP Growers, officially the Cannabis Association for Responsible Producers, while the county was writing its regulations for cannabis cultivation.

Capps said Ventura County has a $750 limit for donations, and limits per donor are $1,500 in Los Angeles County and $500 in San Francisco County. 

“In Santa Barbara County, candidates and elected officials can accept donations of any size – donations that are too often given from those who have business before the board,” Capps said in a statement. “Donations are only reported twice a year, causing a ‘public awareness blackout’ between the time of a special interest donation, a relevant vote, and public disclosure of that donation.

“Meanwhile there is no established independent process to consider conflicts of interest and or ethics violations.”

She also proposed a voluntary candidate spending limit of approximately $250,000 in the primary and $500,000 in the general election.

In response to Capps proposed reforms, Neil Gowing, president of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Association, told Noozhawk that the reforms won’t work. 

“The Santa Barbara Deputy Sheriffs Association strongly supports campaign finance reform and policies that promote good governance. However, Laura Capps’ proposal will effectively ban public safety officers from participating in the political process and exercising our First Amendment right to free speech,” Gowing said.

“As the primary law enforcement bargaining unit for the county, we regularly have business before the board, advocating for critical resources, and weighing-in on important community issues such as improving emergency response.

“If Laura Capps’ proposal were to be enacted, this would force us to choose between advocating for our community at the Board of Supervisors, or exercising our First Amendment right to participate in the political process. We believe that undermining the constitutional rights of any individual is inherently wrong.”

Williams said Capps’ proposals limit free speech.

“I want to enact real campaign reform, a combination of contribution limits and public financing, but her proposal advantages the interests of her donors against our firefighters and public safety officers,” Williams said. “That’s not right.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.