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SD Ethics Commission Misinterprets Campaign Contribution Limits

Committee members unanimously requested that the City Attorney's Office study the legality behind various limitation levels in order to avoid litigation

The head of the San Diego Ethics Commission today blamed her own “misinterpretation” for incorrectly saying the local Republican party would accept campaign contribution limits of $3 million instead of the party's actual suggested limit of about $178,000.

Stacey Fulhorst, the commission's executive director, on Wednesday told the San Diego City Council's Rules committee that the Republican Party of San Diego County suggested contribution limits for the Republican Party for candidates for San Diego municipal offices ranging from $29,000 to $3 million.

On Thursday she said that the $3 million figure was wrong based on her incorrect reading of materials from the party.

“They did not come up with $3 million. It was my misinterpretation,” Fulhorst told City News Service.

While the Republican Party advocated no limits, officials said that if limits are imposed, those limits should be linked to voter registration numbers in the city of San Diego. Because of registration differences, the Republican Party would have limits less than the Democratic Party.

Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, called attention to Fulhorst's error and said the party had proposed high-end limits of $178,070 for the Republican Party and $256,268 for the Democratic party, with the caveat that the Republican position is that there should be no limit.

The San Diego County Democratic Party proposed that the lid be somewhere around $5,000 to $10,000.

The Ethics Commission proposed a limit of $12,000 per election for citywide races and $3,000 for City Council races. The cap would be a combined total of all levels of the parties, whether local, state or federal, said Fulhorst.

The plan drawn up by the city's Ethics Committee stemmed from a federal court ruling that struck down San Diego's old ban on donations from political parties. The judge in the case later rescinded a temporary $1,000 ceiling, so there are no limitations on such giving in the current election year.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer said the limits were necessary, but the levels are a big question.

“In a city as big as San Diego, a $3,000 limit might be tough to justify,” Faulconer said.

Fulhorst said the proposed limits were in line with most of the 15 largest cities in the U.S., with Jacksonville an “outlier” with a $50,000 party contribution cap.

Committee members unanimously requested that the City Attorney's Office study the legality behind various limitation levels in order to avoid litigation and return with a report in two months to the full City Council, which would have final approval over an ordinance.

–City News Service

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