For Immediate Release: October 2, 2015
SUPERVISOR ANDREW DO PROPOSES OC ETHICS COMMISSION WITH SUBPOENA POWER
Proposal Includes Contribution Tracking, Ethics Training to Add Teeth to TINCUP
Santa Ana, California — In an effort to add teeth to TINCUP, Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do is proposing an Orange County Ethics Commission to enforce and administer the county’s landmark campaign finance law. The new commission, as proposed by Supervisor Do, would have the power to subpoena bank records, investigate campaign finance violations, and create an independent campaign contribution tracking system.
“Orange County needs to add teeth to TINCUP,” said Supervisor Andrew Do, who modeled his proposal after ethics commissions from across the country. “An ethics commission can help restore the public’s trust in government and ensure that all campaigns play by the same rules.”
Supervisor Do’s proposal incorporates all of the recommendations of the Orange County Ethics Committee, which produced a 245-page report that has received universal praise from ethics watchdogs. The six major provisions of Do’s proposal give the Orange County Ethics Commission the power to:
- Subpoena bank statements of campaign committees;
- Enforce and investigate campaign committees’ compliance with TINCUP;
- Enforce and investigate the county’s gift ban;
- Enforce and investigate the county’s Code of Ethics;
- Create an independent tracking system of campaign contributions; and,
- Develop and organize an annual ethics training program for county officials and their staff.
Supervisor Andrew Do: Card catalogs and typewriters don’t cut it in 2015
Since 1978, volunteer citizen watchdog Shirley Grindle has tracked campaign contributions using her antiquated, but effective system of typewritten notecards. Supervisor Do believes the county is long overdue for a technological upgrade.
“Card catalogs and typewriters don’t cut it anymore for tracking campaign contributions,” Supervisor Do said in reference to Grindle’s years of effective volunteer service. “We need to institute an independent and formal process — instead of outsourcing the work to one citizen watchdog.”
At a recent Orange County Board of Supervisors hearing, Grindle passionately argued that subpoena power was needed to “get into the bank records” in order to verify the accuracy of campaign finance statements — a provision of Supervisor Do’s plan.
“You need to have subpoena power in order to get into the bank records, campaign bank accounts,” Grindle said at the Orange County Board of Supervisors September 22nd meeting.
Supervisor Do’s ethics proposal could also help prevent embezzlement by campaign treasurers.
In 2012, prominent Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee was sentenced to eight years in prison for embezzling $7 million from more than 50 people, including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Loretta Sanchez. Earlier this year, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher accused his former campaign treasurer of embezzling more than $170,000 in campaign funds.
Independent Campaign Contribution Tracking System
Although campaign treasurer embezzlement schemes attract national headlines, the overwhelming majority of campaign violations are for excess contributions.
“Based on 37 years of TINCUP history, approximately 95% of all violations will be remedied without an Administrative Hearing before the Commission,” Grindle, William R. Mitchell and Prof. Mario Mainero, three citizen activists that have been pushing for an ethic commission, wrote in a recent report.
In addition to excess contributions, campaign committees occasionally file incomplete campaign finance documents that contain math errors or omit accrued expenses, loans, or outstanding debts.
“Ninety-five percent of the violations involved excess contributions, which most of the time are inadvertently accepted,” Grindle told the OC Board of Supervisors at its September 22nd hearing. “We’re blessed in this county with some very good professional treasurer… I can’t think of anyone other than the former sheriff that refused to return an excess contribution.”
Following the example of the state’s independent redistricting commission, Supervisor Do’s proposed ordinance includes strict qualifications for ethics commissioners and a ten-year ban on lobbyists, elected officials, campaign consultants, county executives and political party officers.
Proposal Could Be Placed on June 2016
The proposed ordinance will be considered by the Orange County Board of Supervisors at its October 6 meeting. If approved, the charter amendment would be placed on the June 2016 ballot for approval by Orange County voters.
Supervisor Do’s proposed ordinance is the culmination of a yearlong effort to upgrade the county’s ethics laws. Over the summer, the Orange County Ethics Committee held 10 meetings, solicited testimony from more than 20 subject-matter experts and stakeholders, obtained feedback from more than a dozen speakers, and reviewed more than a dozen background materials on the best practices for ethics and transparency.
Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do represents the First District communities of Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, Midway City, Santa Ana and Westminster. A proud first generation Vietnamese-American immigrant, Andrew Do has served as an Orange County prosecutor, Garden Grove Councilman and Orange County Judge Pro Tem.