I find it refreshing that candidate for county supervisor Laura Capps has courageously put forth a long overdue campaign finance reform plan for Santa Barbara County. She is willing to put action to words by supporting equal access to our politicians among individuals and interest groups and elevating the transparency amid our publicly elected officials of the sources of money changing hands. Santa Barbara County currently has zero campaign finance restrictions, essentially allowing any group or individual to donate unlimited funds to a candidate without any checks or balances.
Campaign contributions limits are common at local, state, and federal levels and according to the United States Supreme Court do not undermine our First Amendment right to free speech. The criticism last week by her opponent and an interest group representative of Capps’s plan highlight a fear from certain groups that they could not present their business before the Board of Supervisors under the proposed restrictions on donations and would be prevented from exercising their right to free speech. This is absurd and frankly frightening. When did free speech stop being free? Does an individual or group need to have political money to advocate before the Board of Supervisors?
As a parent of young children, I want them to have faith in our publicly elected officials and I encourage trust and support in our democracy. If this cynical reality of “pay to play” is our current state of affairs, then we need to rethink more than ever who we are electing into public office. Supreme Court Justices O’Connor and Stevens famously wrote in McConnell vs. the FEC (Federal Election Commission) 2002, that “money, like water, will always find an outlet.” Let us at the very least take a step toward controlling the size of that outlet.