OAKLAND -- Council members on Tuesday will consider new rules aimed at making campaign contributions and expenditures more transparent and penalizing political groups that miss filing deadlines.

The proposal would require candidates and interest groups to file campaign statements electronically, thereby allowing the understaffed city clerk's office to avoid processing time-consuming paper filings and get the information online quickly.

The legislation also would require the city clerk to levy $10-per-day fines on late filers. The fines would be capped at either $100 or the amount of money raised by the campaign during the filing period, whichever is greater.

"I'm excited that this not only creates more transparency and public access, but it also creates accountability that rules are followed," said Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, who introduced the legislation with City Clerk LaTonda Simmons and City Attorney Barbara Parker.

The city clerk's office already had the power under state law to issue $10-per-day fines for late filers, but has generally opted against it.

Last year, this newspaper reported that Councilwoman Desley Brooks had failed to submit campaign statements for six filing periods dating back to 2006 without facing city fines.

During election years, candidates and interest groups are required to file several reports that detail major contributions and expenditures, allowing the public to track the flow of campaign cash.


Advertisement

But managing the system has proved difficult for the city's clerk's office, which has lost staffers in recent years. Last summer, Simmons warned council members that the city faced potential state fines if it failed to adequately keep tabs on the roughly 1,120 officials required to file papers stating if they have economic conflicts of interests and the estimated 175 campaign groups that must file contribution reports.

In response, the council approved a $102,000 contract with the firm NetFile to provide for online filings, but it didn't make e-filing mandatory. The result last fall was that many campaign committees continued filing paper copies. Additionally, several committees, including the police union, filed their reports late.

For the most recent filing period, Lynette Gibson McElhaney is the only council member who did not submit her campaign statement, according to records posted on the city's website. Gibson McElhaney, who said she had signed off on the report, added that she agreed with the e-filing mandate in principle but found that her campaign found the NetFile system hard to use. "We need to make sure it's a user-friendly system," she said.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.