San Luis Obispo County officials spar over campaign limits

October 23, 2020

Supervisor John Peschong

By KAREN VELIE

In a 3-1 vote that led to name calling and accusations of criminal acts, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to limit campaign candidate donations to $25,000 per contributor, with Supervisor Bruce Gibson dissenting.

On Oct. 8, 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation limiting campaign contributions to local candidates to $4,700 in cities and counties that do not have their own contribution limits. Those limits go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

During discussion on the proposed ordinance, Supervisor John Peschong explained that neither he nor his company Meridian Pacific have consulted for candidates running for county offices since he was elected four years ago. In addition, he said while in office for the next four years he will not do political consulting for any county candidates.

A public official has a legal conflict of interest when a vote benefits them financially.

A caller to the board then accused Peschong of benefiting financially from the vote through his work as a political consultant. Prior to the vote, Peschong consulted an attorney who specializes in political law who said he did not have a conflict of interest, Peschong said.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson

Peschong then made a motion to set the $25,000 limit for the county’s 10 elected officials, including the five members of the board of supervisors, and to have the SLO County District Attorney serve as the enforcement arm.

Gibson said he would not support county campaign limits unless it is set lower than the state’s $4,700 limit. In addition, he voiced concerns that District Attorney Dan Dow’s political affiliation could impact enforcement. Dow is a Republican and Gibson is a Democrat.

Supervisor Lynn Compton said she favors local control, while having some concerns with the amount. Noting the county could later change the limit, Compton supported Peschong’s motion.

Before the ordinance is made into law, it requires a reading on Nov. 10 and a hearing on Nov. 17.

Tribune columnist Tom Fulks

Following the vote, Tom Fulks, a Tribune contributor and a long-time consultant for Supervisor Gibson, wrote an editorial accusing Peschong of corruption.

Fulks suggests Peschong should have recused himself because he made more than $100,000 as a political consultant last year.

Fulks then claims that the ordinance directly affects Peschong’s income; pointing at Peschong’s involvement with Measure G in 2018 as support for his allegation.

However, Tuesday’s proposed ordinance impacts candidates only and not measures.

Fulks, who also worked as a consultant for Dow’s opponent in the 2018 district attorney’s race, wrote that Dow was unethical while failing to mention his own financial connections. Dow is not up for reelection until 2022.


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JordanJ

While I do support lower campaign contributions, I do not here because the limits do not apply to PACs, which are often affiliated with unions that donate primarily to Democrats. Neither side should have an advantage.


The nasty issue here is the lack of civility and manipulation of the truth by Tom Fulks and his many trolls. If the paper wants to hire a man paid to act as the “man behind the curtain” for Bruce Gibson and others, it should be noted on each article. Instead, the Tribune has Fulks stop writing while Gibson is activity running, as if that is ethical.


mazin

Best government money can buy.


aye-caramba

On this topic, I do not agree with increasing the limit for the following reasons- we really have a problem with the corrupting influence of corporate contributions, most recently with the nefarious marijuana industry. Developers just kiss up to whomever is in power, showering them with money. That affects all of our ives. Money is a well known corrupting influence in public policy. Why make it easier? AND the independent expenditure pathways already exist for the “large contributors”. I never, ever agree with Fulks, but on this issue, I resonate the concern.


Jorge Estrada

Personally I’d like to limit the sum of all campaign contributions to $25,000.00 for a County Supervisor’s position. It doesn’t surprise me that Gibson has a problem with campaign limits, tax limits and social gifting limits which are all from the same zone, your pocket.


commonsenseguy

i don’t have a problem with it. If it upsets Gibson, then yes, I’m absolutely for it. He’s the last of all the current supervisors who should to try and act ethical. He’s far from it.


I’m more worried about Tom Fulks and the political operative that he is, blatantly showing bias while being part of the media. I use the term “media” very loosely when referring to the Tribune. He can you his platform to preach like he is holier than thou in his self-righteousness opinions, all the while being a dishonest political operative for the left-wing extremist. We need to call out these hypocrites like Tom who are wolves among the flock.


womanwhohasbeenthere

The higher limit is necessary to enable challengers to compete more fairly.

Incumbents have several inherent advantages. They have name recognition. Their names and photos appear on the official website for the county. They are seen and heard in action every two weeks at Board meetings. Every time an incumbent says anything, it is printed/shared etc. as “news.” A challenger says something, and the yawning response is, So what? This helps explain why many incumbents get re-elected, over and over again.


modernwelding

It’s $25,000 per contributor. Each candidate can have hundreds of contributors. Guess it is good for the Post Office and printers.


Mitch C

Bruce time to retire.


kayaknut

We all know previous limits were circumvented by PAC’s, does this do anything about controlling the money spent by PAC’s.


adustum

“Prior to the vote, Peschong consulted a attorney who specializes in political law who said he did not have a conflict of interest, Peschong said.”


Hopefully Peschong checked with the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) attorneys; otherwise, advice of another attorney means little if someone files a complaint against him with the FPPC.


Kevin Rice

If Peschong doesn’t take work within the county, there’s no conflict.


the-death-of-common-sense

Not so fast there. Peschong’s company had a potential reduction in future earnings thanks to the state mandated limit that was enacted. Increasing (or reducing the reduction of) personal contributions to candidates increases that candidate’s total potential budget to spend at a company like Meridian.


If you look at the benchmark he used to arrive at the new $25k limit, it was clearly based on the more than $20k personal contribution made to Beraud by an individual cannabis investor. That Peschong has become very friendly with cannabis lately is quite obvious. Now…. any economist knows that the current valuation of a company like Meridian is partly based on its future earnings. Peschong very likely increased the valuation of Meridian in passing this ordinance and not recusing himself


…and what kind of interests do you think have the cash to be contributing that much during and after his tenure?


kevin rise

Then why has Merridian lobbied as a middle man for local ballot issues such as the recent measure in regard to oil in the Mesa and local, there were fliers everywhere in spanish too, they took in over 100k, while in office? His relations with the Mcphees is also interesting, ie, donor.


commonsenseguy

Kind of like Adam Hill, Heidi Harmon, Jim Shoals, Bruce Gibson and others with the pot lobbyist.


adustum

Kevin Rice, unless you are an attorney with the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) and you have officially opined on the situation, don’t be so sure. Again, if someone makes an official complaint with the FPPC, we will find out whether there is a conflict of interest.