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By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 05/25/15 – 5:12 PM PDT |

San Bernardino County appears to be getting its money’s worth out of the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Ever since the county entered into a contract with the FPPC in January 2013 to enforce its campaign finance reform ordinance, the state agency, to date, has billed the county a total of $113,159.06, county spokesman David Wert said.

In return, the FPPC has audited or is in the process of auditing 23 candidates for public office in San Bernardino County, resulting in no violations for nine candidates, warning letters to four, and fines totaling $12,650 against six running for public office during the last election cycle.

Audits are pending against four candidates, but are expected to conclude within the next two months, FPPC acting enforcement chief Galena West told the commission during its Wednesday meeting.

In December, the county renewed its contract with the FPPC through Dec. 31, 2016, which allows the commission to bill the county up to $300,000 during the 2-year contract.

Supervisor Janice Rutherford, who introduced the county’s campaign finance reform ordinance in 2012, said the county contracting with the FPPC is a cheaper alternative to an ethics commission, long advocated by government watchdogs.

“The FPPC has been very responsive. I think it’s obvious, with the cases brought up now, that they’ve done a very good job with their audits, and a lot of people have learned a lot and will do things better the next time,” Rutherford said.

In August 2012, the Board of Supervisors adopted Rutherford’s proposed ordinance, which limited campaign contributions to local candidates to $3,900, the same limit imposed on state legislators. The ordinance also requires candidates and political action committees to electronically report all contributions and expenditures of more than $10,000.

In January 2013, the county became the first in the state to contract with the FPPC to enforce its campaign finance ordinance. Orange County has since tried, unsuccessfully, to do the same thing, and Stockton is now considering something similar, said FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga.

The fruits of the FPPC’s labor in San Bernardino County played out Wednesday during the commission’s monthly meeting, when it fined six local candidates for campaign finance violations. Those fined:

• District Attorney Michael A. Ramos: Ramos and his treasurer, Marvin Reiter, were fined a total of $5,000 for failing to file a pre-election campaign statement on time and for failing to itemize on campaign finance forms credit card charges of $100 or more.

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