Home Brentwood Brentwood City Council Seek to Limit Campaign Contributions

Brentwood City Council Seek to Limit Campaign Contributions

by ECT

On Tuesday, members of the Brentwood City Council presented a future agenda item aimed at possibly creating campaign finance limits and reforms for future city elections. The item was brought up by councilmembers Jovita Mendoza and Karen Rarey.

Rarey explained the idea was to limit contributions for future mayor and city council campaigns.  She cited how the city of Walnut Creek started at $100 and now limit to $197 based on CPI after starting in 1994.

“I think it makes it easier, you are on an even playing field instead of someone with a $20k donation from one person,” said Rarey who acknowledged there is now a cap of $5k. “Still, if we have a limit, it makes it more on an even playing field for everyone.  I would also like to look at it that contributions can only be received during the campaign year.”

In the past election, Mayor Joel Bryant accepted a $20k donation from Sierra Pacific Properties (owned by Seeno). He also received $1,500 from Tim Grayson for Assembly 2020. Meanwhile, Indrani Golden, a council candidate for District 3, received an accepted a $5k contribution from Sierra Pacific Properties.  Olga Vidriales, also a candidate in District 3, received a $1k donation from the Jim Frazier for Assembly 2020 and $1k from the California Real Estate Political Action Committee. In the District 1 race, Faye Maloney received $500 from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Association.

In the City of Antioch, for example, who has no campaign contribution limits, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe recently raised over $80k in his “Stop the #KAREN Recall of Mayor Lamar Thorpe 2022“. His donations over $500 included:

  • $10,000 – Civic Properties Inc
  • $10,000 – One Plant Life
  • $5,000 – Dustin Hoke (Delta Dispensary)
  • $5,000 – Republic Services
  • $5,000 – Yixi Trading, LLC
  • $5,000 – Justin Tin (SF Dental Group)
  • $5,000 – GBN Partners
  • $5,000 – SR Ventures LLC
  • $5,000 – Zhirong Dong
  • $2,500 – IBEW 302 Community Candidates PAC
  • $2,500 – Local 549 PAC
  • $2,500 – Plumbing Industry Protection Fund Local 159
  • $2,500 – Nana Chu
  • $2,499 – America A De Leon
  • $2,000 – Delvin Braswell
  • $1,000 – John Garamendi (US Congressman)
  • $1,000 – Sierra Pacific Properties
  • $1,000 – Wai-Yan Sandy Chau
  • $1,000 – Andrew Cooper
  • $500 – Mark DeSaulnier for Congress
  • $500 – Silvio Garaventa (Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery)
  • $500 – Ronald Muhammad

Rarey explained that the council should decide if they want to limit campaign donations to a single donation in a specific campaign year or on a campaign basis.  She noted that someone could give a max donation in a campaign year or give a little bit of money each year until they max out.

“Instead of the $400 or $500 limit, now they have $1,600 or $2,000 from that one person,” said Rarey.

Mendoza agreed.

“This has been a topic within the community since way before I was elected. We don’t understand why in a small town of Brentwood why you would need that much money to run a campaign,” stated Mendoza. “You should be able to run with smaller donations and I think the even playing field is important.”

Mendoza said people should be looking at “substance” versus “shiny ads” in a campaign.

“This way everyone has the same kind of money and do the same kind of things with lawn signs, flyers, door hangers, just the basic stuff and then it becomes more about your messaging versus how much marketing and how good you are at marketing because funds will be limited,” said Mendoza. “Our community wants this.”

With two public comment’s, both were in support of limiting campaign donations and to a single donation per election.

Councilmemebr Susannah Meyer supported the idea and thought it made sense to limit campaign donations to the election year.

“The even playing field, I am all about that,” said Meyer. “I would 100% support staff time and effort being put into flushing this out. We have heard it from the community and seen the push back.”

Mendoza added that a PAC could come in and pay for a candidate but it would be clearer who the PAC is and this item wouldn’t mean money would be taken out of politics, but clearer who is involved with campaigns.

Rarey noted that her son was running for Austin City Council in Texas and they limit campaign contributions to $400 per person or $800 per couple.

“If a city like that can do it at such low limits, I am not sure why we couldn’t,” stated Rarey.

Rarey suggested they go with a $500 limit per donation while Mendoza urged for an urgency ordinance to apply to this election cycle—staff said it would be unlikely to apply to this election.  Staff explained with paperwork to run for council being pulled July 18 – August 12, it would be difficult for an urgency ordinance to apply for this fall’s election.

The council moved in a 3-0 vote to bring this back at a future meeting to implement a potential urgency ordinance to put something in place quickly for the upcoming election while also working on another ordinance to put the language for regular process for a cap of $500 and cap on PACs of $1,000.

Mayor Joel Bryant and Vice Mayor Johnny Rodriquez were absent from the meeting.


Editors Note:

A look at campaign donation limits from other cities across California according to the FPPC.

  • $4,400: City of Fresno (limits committee donations to $8,800)
  • $2,500: City of Richmond
  • $2,000: City of Vacaville (at large candidate)
  • $1,554: City of Hayward
  • $1,000: City of San Diego (Mayor’s Race) – Council is $500 limit
  • $1,000: City of Turlock (per election cycle)
  • $1,000: City of Vacaville (by district)
  • $760: Dana Point
  • $500: City of Burlingame
  • $500: City of Chico (per election)
  • $500: City of Dublin
  • $500: City of Fremont
  • $500: City of Healdsburg
  • $500: City of Merced or $2,000 per election.
  • $500: City of Milpitas
  • $500: City of Monterey
  • $500: City of Pinole (note – in-kind contributions of $1k per person or $2k by political committee
  • $500: City of Pleasant Hill or $2,000 from a political committee
    Note – in-kind contributions of $1k per person or $2k by political committee.
  • $500: City of Roseville or $250 if you don’t accept voluntary campaign limits.
  • $500: City of Santa Rosa
  • $500: City of Sausalito
  • $400: City of Monterey
  • $400: City of Navoto
  • $300: City of Irvine
  • $250: Agoura Hills
  • $250: City of Benicia
  • $250: West Sacramento
  • $150: City of Folsom
  • $125: City of Beverely Hills (This limit increases to $450 if the candidate agrees to spend $80,000 or less.)

More Notes:

  • On March 17, 2021, the City of Bakerfield lifted its $4,700 cap and now have no campaign contribution limits.
  • On June 20, 2020, City of Monterey established a $0.60 per resident meaning campaigns could voluntarily spend no more than $36,000 per election.
  • On July 24, 2017, city of Livermore abolished its campaign limits for elections.  Prior to this, the limit was $250.  At this time, the Mayor stated lifting the campaign limits leveled the playing field.
  • On Nov. 8, 2016, the City Council of Cupertino limited council spending on elections to $33,000.

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Jim Simmons Jun 15, 2022 - 6:13 pm

This kind of behavior actually protects incumbents. They don’t call it the great incumbent protection act for nothing. Seems like 3 bitter women to me who failed to get any decent donations to their campaign.

max Jun 22, 2022 - 3:44 pm

jim you are cringe


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