One provision being considered would allow candidates to establish a “defense fund” to pay for representation in legal challenges. Some members—elections lawyer Greer among them—have said there should be no cap on donations to such a fund. “Makes me sick to my stomach,” Grindle says. “Don’t tell me for a minute that some guy who gives $300,000 to you, an elected official, that you aren’t influenced by that when the guy’s project comes up.”

Similarly, a provision about “slate mailers” has proved controversial. In 2002, the Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance regulating mailed “slates” of endorsements after Lewis allegedly abused a loophole in state and county law while running Norby’s supervisorial campaign. Now, Lewis and others have tried to lessen the slate-mail restrictions in TINCUP, while Probolsky has said he wants to do away with them altogether.

Meanwhile, the issue of how to enforce TINCUP remains unresolved. While Grindle and a few committee members have supported the creation of a commission or the appointment of a “compliance officer” to monitor the law, the majority has advocated leaving that job with the district attorney.

Shirley's got your campaign finance right here
John Gilhooley
Shirley's got your campaign finance right here

Moorlach’s senior policy adviser, Mario Mainero, has been working with county counsel Ann Fletcher and county assistant CEO Rob Richardson to write a version of TINCUP that reflects the committee’s progress. A draft recently distributed to committee members shows that much of the law’s language has been smoothed out. But on the contentious questions, there’s only a list of the options favored by various committee members.

To Grindle, that means the entire exercise has been a waste of time: The very problems the committee was meant to help solve will be punted back to the Board of Supervisors. If they decide to weaken the law, they’ll need county voters to approve.

“The board has really put themselves in a terrible position,” Grindle says. “If they put this committee into place to solve a problem, then it backfired bigtime.”

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