Thursday, April 29, 2010

GOP loses court bid to fund S.D. candidates

By Craig Gustafson,
Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 12:08 a.m.

A federal judge has rejected a push by the county Republican Party that would have allowed political parties to give money to San Diego City Council candidates ahead of the June 8 election.

Instead, parties will have to wait until late June when a council-approved measure takes effect that sets a cap on such contributions at $1,000 per election.

The judge’s decision Wednesday is the latest ruling in a case that could have wide-ranging implications for how local elections are run in San Diego County and across the country. The case began in December when a group of Republicans, including the local party, sued the city claiming its restrictive campaign finance laws were infringing on their free speech rights. Specifically, they targeted the city’s $500 limit on individual contributions to candidates and restrictions on when candidates can begin collecting and spending money on a campaign.

U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez shelved three of the city’s laws in a Feb. 16 ruling, most notably its ban on political party contributions. But she also said parties couldn’t donate money until the city set an appropriate limit.

The council voted Tuesday for the $1,000 cap, based on a recommendation from the Ethics Commission, which monitors city campaigns and helps shape election laws.

The Republican Party accused the city of dragging its feet and asked Gonzalez to lift her stay so it could help candidates immediately.

In her ruling Wednesday, the judge said she didn’t feel compelled to rush the city’s process of adopting new laws, which requires a second reading and a 30-day waiting period before going into effect. That process likely won’t be finished until late June, well after the coming election.

Joe La Rue, the attorney leading the case against the city, said he was disappointed with the judge’s decision because it “eliminated the ability of the party to do what the judge said they ought to be able to do.” He said the judge made it clear in court Tuesday that she felt uncomfortable lifting the stay immediately, a decision that would have allowed parties to donate unlimited amounts of money to candidates because no cap exists.

La Rue said his clients haven’t decided whether to appeal the decision. The rest of the lawsuit’s campaign finance challenges are expected to go to trial later this year.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

D6: Republican Desperation

From this week’s CityBeat:

Strategy session

The Republican Party of San Diego County revealed its campaign strategy for the San Diego City Council District 6 race in a document filed last week in federal court.

The filing—a declaration from the party’s treasurer, April Boling—says the party wants to double candidate Lorie Zapf’s war chest with a $20,000 contribution, which would put her on equal footing as “frontrunner” (Boling’s words, not ours) Howard Wayne, a Democratic former Assembly member. The GOP plans to pay workers to go door-to-door on Zapf’s behalf and use its offices to phone-bank for the candidate.

What does it mean when the endorsed candidate of the GOP Central Committee, the Lincoln Club, and the Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego cannot compete financially with the leading Democrat in the race? Two things come to mind:

1) The Republicans in San Diego can’t raise the money for Zapf which betrays a weakness at the heart of “machine” they wish to be.

2) The Republicans in San Diego don’t want to raise the money for Zapf which makes sense if she says hateful things and then denies ever saying them even when presented with evidence. Or files lawsuits when she’s representative of a lawsuit abuse group.

Kudos to Team Wayne for putting the Republicans in a position that they have to go to court to do what they cannot do politically; raise money for their candidate. So much for being opposed to an activist judiciary.

All of that is contingent on whether the court lifts the city’s restriction on donations from parties to candidates. The court already knocked down the rule but left it temporarily effective until the City Council approves new rules allowing donations with caps. That hasn’t happened, but the council was set to discuss it after our deadline on April 27.

As of yesterday, the City Council placed a limit of $1,000 per party per candidate.

“We are 110 percent committed to Lorie Zapf and will vigorously support her in every way that we can,” County GOP chair Tony Krvaric tells CityBeat—a silly remark, really, since it implies that the Republicans will violate any limit set by the city by 10 percent.

Given the desperation of the local GOP, violations of limits by 10% may be too kind.