The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to raise the limit of what individuals can contribute to county campaigns, from $1,675 per election cycle, to $2,500.
The new limit would apply to races for county supervisor, assessor, auditor-controller, county clerk-recorder, district attorney, sheriff-coroner, and treasurer-tax collector.
The county first imposed campaign limits in 1984. The $1,675 limit for individual campaign contributions to non-supervisorial county office candidates was last revised in 2004.
The limit for individual campaign contributions to supervisorial candidates was last revised in 2005 — five years before the Supreme Court ruled that, contrary to established campaign finance laws, corporations and other outside groups could spend unlimited funds on campaigns.
District 1 supervisor John Gioia, who doesn’t take money from corporations or industries like oil and tobacco, said corporations can write big checks to committees focused on winning a county election. Raising the limit on individual donations to a candidate just levels the playing field a bit more.
“Why should a candidate be limited when large corporations are not limited in how much they can spend in an independent expenditure committee, and just far outstrip the candidate,” Gioia said. “That just seems to be inherently unfair.”
The new limit of $2,500 can be extended to $5,000 in two circumstances: where the total cumulative expenditures of the committee or committees making independent expenditures opposing the candidate or supporting the candidate’s opponent equal $75,000 or more; or when the candidate faces a self-funded opponent, as defined by county ordinance.
A state law that took effect on Jan. 1, 2021, applies campaign contribution limits of $4,900 per election (adjusted every odd year) to city and county races in jurisdictions that don’t already have their own laws. Contra Costa’s ordinance supersedes it.
“We are not looking to meet what the state offers and even if cites don’t have limits, we are trying to create some limits that allow people to know what we’re doing,” said District 3 supervisor Diane Burgis.
The new limit takes effect March 2, in time for the coming election season. Any candidate already maxed out after raising to the previous $1,675 amount, can now go back and fundraise to the new limit of $2,500.