A hearty kudos to reporters Dave Moller and Michelle Rindels and city editor Trina Kleist of The Union for “digging deeper” with the local campaign finance filings from May and March. They also posted the reports online.
In “Analysis: Donations hint at political bent,” they focus on an issue that has been discussed here for months (and prompted our first and only campaign contribution): The local nonpartisan races here have become too highly partisan, or by now “no s*** Sherlock.”
Though the story lacked a “nut” (or what is the point) paragraph, it is this: When you treat nonpartisan races like political footballs, you risk losing the most qualified, experienced candidates.
Many professionals just don’t want to get involved in the campaigning. One example that comes to mind: Jim Blashford, with years of experience in assessor’s offices, who bowed out of our race for county assessor.
One salient point that also was not highlighted in the analysis: Not only is the money coming from people who are like-minded politically, it is coming from people who can’t even vote in the races.
The outside money, however, still can influence the outcome of the race for the people in that district.
This was the subject of an article by Laura Brown that I edited in Oct. 2008 that focused on two NID races. “Two NID campaigns funded with outside help” is here. The story raised a ruckus but spelled out the same important issue.
In this year’s campaigning, for example, Joanne Rebane of Nevada City, whose husband is the “far right” blogger and The Union columnist George Rebane, contributed $300 to highly conservative John Spencer over in Grass Valley.
The Rebanes can’t vote in the District 3 race, however. They live over in Nevada City. But their out-of-the-district contribution, along with others, can influence the race.
Supervisor Nate Beason, who also lives in Nevada City, contributed $300 to Spencer’s campaign.
The Union showed some bias in the article. The very first example it called out was a $300 contribution from the county Democratic Central Committee to Terry Lamphier.
The Union’s editor/publisher has never supported Terry for anything. Plus, though supervisor races are supposedly nonpartisan, they have been political footballs for years.
I’m more concerned with money flowing from one district into another for any of the races, and with the decidedly nonpartisan posts — clerk-recorder and assessor, for example — becoming political footballs.
The article also should have noted that Mill St. Clothing, owned by Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout, donated $100 to Spencer’s campaign. I wonder if email@example.com asked his friend Lisa “What did you get for your $100,” as he did to me.
All told, however, thanks again to The Union and Dave and Michelle for shedding more light on this issue. Writing and talking about it could help cause some introspection by campaigners and campaign donors.
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