Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Created: 09/27/2011 12:42:57 PM PDT

A proposal to limit how much money groups can give to candidates seeking county elected office was unanimously approved Tuesday by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

The vote gives staff the go-ahead to prepare an ordinance placing a cap on campaign contributions.

Should the ordinance pass, Supervisor Janice Rutherford is suggesting that the county consider contracting with the state Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate and enforce any violation.

The public, she contends, may have trust issues with a local board or commission enforcing the ordinance.

For years, the county has shied away from suggested campaign-finance reforms, arguing it drives money underground and creates less transparency, not more.

Corruption scandals tied to quid pro quo agreements and campaign contributions prompted county officials, including Rutherford and District Attorney Michael A. Ramos, to suggest campaign finance reform be mandatory in the county to restore trust with constituents.

“Large campaign contributions give the impression that donors can have undue influence on elected officials,” Rutherford said in a statement Tuesday. “And limiting those contributions can help restore public trust in San Bernardino County government, which has been beset with political scandals.”

The board will review the draft ordinance and proposed legislation at a future meeting, and discuss changes that may be necessary before voting.

Supervisor Neil Derry doesn’t see much promise in Rutherford’s proposal, which is being co-sponsored by Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt. He says it is overly broad and goes against the grain of the current political and economic climate.

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