Opinion - Elk Grove Campaign Finance Reform NOW!

By Steve Lee | Just last year two sitting City Council members ran unopposed for re-election. Why? Maybe because the citizens are satis...

By Steve Lee |

Just last year two sitting City Council members ran unopposed for re-election. Why? Maybe because the citizens are satisfied with their current council? Maybe because both council members had over $100,000 in their campaign war chests and the average citizen or even above-average citizen, knew they couldn’t compete without a huge war chest funded by unions and developers?

The answer became very apparent in the past two weeks. With our city attempting to avoid a $500,000 special election to find a replacement for Gary Davis’ now vacant District 4 seat, six outstanding candidates came forward to apply. They didn’t have to come up with filing fees, campaign money, fancy lawn signs and glossy mailers. They only needed the courage, love for community, honorable values and their willingness to get involved in their community.

The result: Outstanding candidates with a myriad of life experiences, educational and professional backgrounds, no special interests or hidden agendas, just good people willing to come forward and serve their community. Each of the sitting council members even lauded the quality of the candidates. Our community is full of professionals that could and would serve this community well. Their only obstacle is money.

The only way to ensure that Elk Grove will get great quality leadership in the future is to pressure our city into enacting a reasonable campaign finance reform policy, including limiting donations from special interest groups. The citizens need to take our city back from the pressures imposed by developers and unions.

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Connie said...

When they were all first running for city council, Davis, Detrick and Hume all had, as part of their platform, Campaign Finance Reform. After they were elected, well, you be the judge.

Frankly, that was part of the reason many of us worked to elect them.

If campaign finance reform is to be done, and it should be, the citizens will have to get it on the ballot themselves.

In exploring getting a "resign to run" rule on the ballot, Elk Grove has 77,925 voters as of October, 2012. Therefore, if citizens take this on, beside the filing fees, 10% of register voters must sign the petition to get it on a General Election ballot.

Here is what Jason sent me on the exact process.


Anonymous said...

I LOVE this idea. Mr. Lee is correct that several great people stepped up to fill the recent void. I wonder, other than Chaires who is 100% backed by the Democratic party, would have the resources to front 100,000 for a war chest. A person would have to self-fund his campaign because all the special interest donors are already in Hume, Detrick, and Davis's pockets. Let's get this under control. Let's get Elk Grove back on the road to sanity. Suggestions on a style or current system that works for other cities/ counties?

Wizard of Oz said...

Unfortunately, my crystal ball tells me that the regional puppet-masters and both Party Machine operatives will nix the campaign spending reform idea before it gets started; a charter amendment to require council members running for Mayor to vacate their seat will appear on the next ballot to avoid this recent fiasco; and Chaires will run a highly funded Mayoral campaign against a similarly funded Detrick.

So, unless some resident happens to win the lottery between now and then, it will likely be business as usual.

Tom said...

100% agree with this opinion although it would be a total shock to me if any effective campaign finance reform ever took place in our not so quaint city.

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

Tom, you are correct. The city council would never push this MAD - mutually assured destruction - type button on themselves. Connie above correctly points out however this could be done by initiative.

Anonymous said...

Independent Expenditures: Independent expenditures are advertisements that expressly advocate the election or defeat of specific candidates and are aimed at the electorate as a whole. Under federal rules, these expenditures must be made completely independent of the candidates, with no coordination. In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations and unions may fund independent expenditures with money from their general treasuries. Prior to that, independent expenditures could only be made by the organization's PAC. In the wake of Citizens United, some groups continue to use their PACs to fund independent expenditures, while others are taking advantage of the new freedom to spend directly from treasury funds or through new "super PACs" that can use unlimited donations to run independent expenditures. Individuals, political parties, unions, corporations, PACs and other groups making independent expenditures must disclose the name of the candidates who benefit and must itemize the amounts spent in a report to the Federal Election Commission.

Anonymous said...

Am I missing something? 4 out of the 5 incumbents have been unseated when challenged since 2000. From what I have seen, the candidates that have run the most viable campaign have won 100% of the time in Elk Grove. As long as there are individuals, groups or special interest, everyone has their freedom of speech to exercise. That includes if I want to spend 5, 10, 50 or 100 K to get who I believe is the best person in office. This is permissible and I do not see anyone taking these rights of Americans away. I could loan it to the candidate as an option to get them elected if I chose to. If the candidate is not viable and that includes the money needed to get the message out in as many forms of media, odds are they are not going to have a chance of winning. We saw that in last years Mayor race as the latest example, Only Davis ran a viable campaign, none of the others even came close to running a viable campaign and the results showed it.

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

To dear Anon above, thanks, I guess, for your long justification of the positive effects of money in campaigns. You are obviously part of the pro-incumbency establishment inteligencia. So are you a Karl Rove wanna-be or just so drunk on the Kool Aid you can't see straight?

As someone who defended this country and put myself at risk for your right to have your opinion, I will gladly fight for your right to say that. That is America.

Having said that Anon, you must be some sort of chickenhawk who is avoiding the point Mr. Lee made in his opinion piece. Specifically when you have two incumbents, Mr.'s Cooper and Detrick in this case, who are backed by big-money interests, be they R or D, you are discouraging those without the financial backing from involving themselves in our democratic process. The fact that they had no opposition is telling us people were discouraged from entering the race. Using your logic, if they can't get the money, they can't be viable. Your logic is flawed and sophomoric.

Or are your so enamored with both men that you have deluded yourself to the point your daily dose of lithium is not having its intended effect?

Furthermore, in my opinion, five out of six of the candidates who sought the recent appointment appeared to me more qualified, contemplative and intelligent than a majority of our current council members.

To add further irony to our local big-wigs and their big bank accounts, it is ironic how Mr. Davis waxes poetically about the beauty of more civic participation in our democracy, but when it comes to raising money, he is without exception the biggest suckling at the tit of whoever can fork over the big bucks needed to suppress those very citizens he praises from getting the necessary funds to needed to launch, using your words, viable campaign. For that matter has Mr. Davis ever put any of his own money on the line? Not likely.

When there is only one nipple for suckling, who do you think the pig is going to feed - The fat one or the runt?

Anonymous said...


I am sure everyone understands what Mr. Lee is saying and would agree that it would be great for a fair playing field. The point is, I do not see a way to stop those with the money from spending it with one of the many legal methods on who they believe is the best candidate.

Not sure if Davis or Cooper has ever spent a dime of their own or not. From what I recall, Soares, Scherman, Hume and Detrick have all invested large sums of their own money at risk on their campaigns. I doubt of Soares or Scherman will ever see a dime of their personal funds invested since they lost their elections.

For the attacks from people on this site, other blogs and at council meetings, why would anyone want to run and take the abuse is beyond me.

I will sit back and watch the fireworks from the Monday morning Quarter Backs that think they know better and can do better.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, there was a lot of money in play for the Mayoral race last year. And, money can certainly carry a lot of clout. However, in this race, only one candidate effectively communicated a vision FOR the city and he won. Ms. Wheat, a very intelligent and dedicated citizen took more of an activist stance and professed what she stood against. The others, to be honest, could hardly string three sentences together without rambling or spouting cliche campaign statements.
So, in the end, the best candidate of the field won... regardless of the money in play.

Roger Kaputnik said...

Anon above,

As they say in Texas, Mr. Davis is all hat and no cattle. What exactly does or did Mr. Davis stand for?

Building stronger neighborhoods? Improving the job to housing imbalance?

Kind of like saying your for puppies and apple pie. Who isn't for that?

Until you come up with something more specific, you really nothing more than another Alfred E. Neuman

Anonymous said...

Roger... notice I said, "Best candidate of the field!" :) But to return to the point of the need (or absence of need) for campaign finance reform... My point is that a candidate with less money could have made a better run at it, had they been able to communicate effectively.
Mayor Davis was the only candidate to speak from the heart and elaborate a vision for the direction of Elk Grove. More substance needed? Perhaps. But, he truly was the only one able to clearly elaborate a compelling direction.
That's why he won... It wasn't (entirely) about the money! :D

Anonymous said...

Endorsements: Gary Davis best of a so-so lineup for Elk Grove mayor By the Sacrament Bee Editorial Board

I think the Sacramento Bee said it perfectly!

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