San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt announced today that he is co-sponsoring a proposal that, if approved, would initiate the formulation of a proposed local law to limit the amount of money that may be legally contributed or received in county elections.

“In light of San Bernardino County’s history of crimes, scandals and just plain bad behavior resulting from the influence of excessive political contributions, our status as one of the few major counties without contribution limits in our elections is now indefensible,” Mitzelfelt said. He added that his intent is to reduce the influence of special interests and broaden opportunities for participation in county government.

An item posted today on the Board of Supervisors’ Agenda for consideration Tuesday outlines the proposed direction by First District Supervisor Mitzelfelt along with Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford, who was elected in 2010.

The recommendation would direct the County Administrative Office, with the assistance of County Counsel, to prepare a county ordinance and/or draft state legislation to impose and enforce limits on contributions from individuals, businesses and political action committees in elections for county offices.

County staff will also research methods for enforcing the new rules. One possibility is contracting with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which would require state legislation. The FPPC currently enforces state law on campaign contributions and expenditures and would provide an experienced, and arms-length, agency to ensure compliance with the local regulations.

In the State of California, 13 counties and 98 cities have enacted campaign finance reform measures to improve public trust in local government, create higher levels of transparency, and to limit the influence of special interest groups, such as unions, developers, independent expenditure committees, and others.

The 2008-2009 San Bernardino County Grand Jury recommended establishing “reasonable” campaign contribution limits from individuals and groups to restore trust in County government and to create a level playing field in the local political arena.