City Campaign Finance Reform

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The Santa Cruz City Council enacted the campaign finance reform ordinance in June, 2000 (Ordinance No. 2000-11), upon the recommendation of the Campaign Finance Reform Task Force. The Task Force had met since early 1997 to study the possible impacts of voluntary spending limits on local elections. The 2000 ordinance essentially limited campaign expenditures by candidates, and after further consideration, the Council amended the ordinance in February, 2002 (Ordinance No. 2002-07) and again in April, 2002 (Ordinance No. 2002-14), to include limitations on campaign contributions to candidates. In May, 2004 (Ordinance No. 2004-16there was an additional ordinance enacted pertaining to City Council Election Campaign expenditures and contributions. In July, 2014 (Ordinance No. 2014-06) the ordinance was amended again to set a voluntary campaign expenditure limitation cap to be calculated at $0.60 per city resident and establish a mandatory contribution limitation of $350 per individual and organization, indexed by $50.00 five year incremental increases. 

The Council and Task force recognized that monetary contributions to political campaigns are a legitimate form of citizen participation, but that the financial strength of individuals or organizations should not permit them to exercise a controlling influence on the election of candidates. The intended purposes of the City's voluntary campaign expenditure and mandatory contribution limitations ordinance are:
  1. To minimize the potentially corrupting influence and appearances of corruption caused by excessive contributions; and
  2. To limit overall expenditures in campaigns, thereby allowing candidates to spend less time fundraising and more time communicating with voters; and
  3. To provide incentives that encourage candidates to voluntarily limit their campaign expenditures.

Candidates who agree to the campaign spending and contribution limitations are entitled to be featured (at no charge to themselves) on the City's website.

The expenditure limitation cap is established every election year by using the most recent census records and a rate per City resident.

The 2014 election year expenditure limit is $38,064 (63,440 residents x $.60) [effective August 8, 2014]. The contribution limit is $350 per individual and organization [effective August 8, 2014]. Candidates must agree to:

  • Spend $1,000 in support of their candidacy or procure 250 signatures of City electors
  • Form a controlled committee
  • Accept voluntary contribution and mandatory contribution limits
  • Provide information from any organization upon the request of the City of Santa Cruz
For help with election information, please contact Bren Lehr, City Clerk Administrator at (831) 420-5038.