By KAREN VELIE
In a 3-1 vote that led to name calling and accusations of criminal acts, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to limit campaign candidate donations to $25,000 per contributor, with Supervisor Bruce Gibson dissenting.
On Oct. 8, 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation limiting campaign contributions to local candidates to $4,700 in cities and counties that do not have their own contribution limits. Those limits go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
During discussion on the proposed ordinance, Supervisor John Peschong explained that neither he nor his company Meridian Pacific have consulted for candidates running for county offices since he was elected four years ago. In addition, he said while in office for the next four years he will not do political consulting for any county candidates.
A public official has a legal conflict of interest when a vote benefits them financially.
A caller to the board then accused Peschong of benefiting financially from the vote through his work as a political consultant. Prior to the vote, Peschong consulted an attorney who specializes in political law who said he did not have a conflict of interest, Peschong said.
Peschong then made a motion to set the $25,000 limit for the county’s 10 elected officials, including the five members of the board of supervisors, and to have the SLO County District Attorney serve as the enforcement arm.
Gibson said he would not support county campaign limits unless it is set lower than the state’s $4,700 limit. In addition, he voiced concerns that District Attorney Dan Dow’s political affiliation could impact enforcement. Dow is a Republican and Gibson is a Democrat.
Supervisor Lynn Compton said she favors local control, while having some concerns with the amount. Noting the county could later change the limit, Compton supported Peschong’s motion.
Before the ordinance is made into law, it requires a reading on Nov. 10 and a hearing on Nov. 17.
Following the vote, Tom Fulks, a Tribune contributor and a long-time consultant for Supervisor Gibson, wrote an editorial accusing Peschong of corruption.
Fulks suggests Peschong should have recused himself because he made more than $100,000 as a political consultant last year.
Fulks then claims that the ordinance directly affects Peschong’s income; pointing at Peschong’s involvement with Measure G in 2018 as support for his allegation.
However, Tuesday’s proposed ordinance impacts candidates only and not measures.
Fulks, who also worked as a consultant for Dow’s opponent in the 2018 district attorney’s race, wrote that Dow was unethical while failing to mention his own financial connections. Dow is not up for reelection until 2022.