In late August, the Sacramento, Calif.-based Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn Humboldt County, Calif.’s 2006 Protect Fair Elections and Local Democracy ordinance, known as “Measure T,” that prohibits out-of-county controlled companies from making contributions to county politicians. The lawsuit claims Measure T violates a class of employers’ First Amendment free speech rights. Supporters say it ensures that corporation owners act as individuals in elections and do not use their companies to gain unfair influence.
American City & County asked the readers of its weekly e-mail newsletter if companies that have headquarters in another jurisdiction should be restricted from contributing financially to local campaigns. Some of the responses follow.
“[Supporters of Measure T and county officials] probably have no concerns with [out of county entities] paying property taxes, school assessment fees, sales tax and any other general obligation bonds [to the county]. All of these are ‘OK’ to accept an ‘out of the area’ check for payment. The county receives out-of-area payments [state and federal] from Sacramento and Washington. If they want to say Measure T is their statement, they need to return those subvention funds/taxes to Sacramento and Washington.”
— David Pereira, land use planning consultant, Austin, Texas
“I fully agree that out-of-jurisdiction contributions, as well as professional in-kind services, should be restricted to some percent of total [contributions] raised by local political campaigns. Such contributions, both cash and in kind, distort the process and make dollars more valuable than citizen support.”
— Gary Allen, former mayor, Bowie, Md.
“Individuals are losing [their] political voice by being out spent by the new approach to political influence of ‘One dollar, one vote.’ Outside influence in all elections is rampant, so if counties want to correct the situation by limiting the money coming from outside their jurisdiction, then this is a good start.”
— Carla Culver, senior civil engineering specialist, Seattle Public Utilities