Contra Costa: McGill and Mitchoff duel over law





Contra Costa supervisor candidate Karen Mitchoff filed a complaint today with the District Attorney’s Office alleging that her opponent, Mike McGill, violated county campaign finance laws.

In response, McGill challenged Mitchoff to work for $1 a year, if elected, and “remove all financial motives and ensures that we are focused on public policy and solving real problems,” he said.

Under county law, supervisor candidates who loan or contribute more than $25,000 to their campaigns must file a statement of intent to self-fund at the time they file for office.

The total includes donations and loans from immediate family members.

McGill, a board member of the Contra Costa Central Sanitary District, has loaned his campaign $54,500 as of May 22. Relatives have contributed $3,675. His company, MMS Design Associates, has contributed $1,065 worth of office support and copies.

The Pleasant Hill engineer says he never intended to self-fund.

But as the campaign proceeded, the public responded “so strongly to my message, and I realized I could do more than make a point, I could win and implement the changes that I think are needed in our budget and public employee pension system,” he said.

McGill needed more money, so he says his campaign team began researching the rules.

He met with county officials and after what he described as confusing conversations, McGill filed a self-fund declaration Thursday, which was also the campaign finance report filing deadline for local and state candidates.

As the law also requires, he changed his campaign literature to reflect his self-funded status.

“I think Karen knows (he has followed the rules), but she’s frustrated that her campaign is struggling and my upstart campaign has been gaining a lot of traction,” McGill said. “Karen’s taken more than $30,000 from labor unions — but I’m not going to start throwing mud and accusing her of being a labor funded candidate, because I want this to be a campaign about the differences in our vision for the county.”

Deputy District Attorney Steve Bolen declined to comment on the complaint. Violation of the election code is a misdemeanor although candidates are rarely prosecuted.

Had McGill filed the declaration earlier, Mitchoff could have solicited higher contributions. The self-fund notification triggers a rise in the contribution limit for the opponents from $1,675 to $5,000.

Mitchoff has raised $75,017 since she started campaigning in 2009 but has written no personal checks to her campaign. As McGill indicated, the largest portion of her money has come from labor unions.

Outside of personal loans and family contributions, McGill has collected $70,156. He has received far less PAC money than his opponent, but what he has received came from the Associated Builders and Contractors, Homebuilders Association of Northern California and Western Electrical Contractors Association.

The legislation is intended to help level the playing field between wealthy candidates and those who rely solely on donations. It only applies to county supervisor candidates.

The ordinance also says that self-funded candidates cannot repay themselves but must treat the money as a contribution.

Candidates may loan their campaigns up to $50,000 if an independent expenditure committee spends in excess of $75,000 for the benefit of his or opponents.

No independent expenditures have been reported thus far in the county supervisor race.

Click through to read the pertinent ordinances.

Contra Costa County ordinance language:

530-2.708 – Self funded candidates.


Self Funded Candidate Defined. For purposes of this article, “self funded candidate” means a supervisorial candidate who makes loans and contributions of his or her personal funds to his or her campaign or campaign committee, in the aggregate amount of more than twenty-five thousand dollars. For purposes of this article “contributions from personal funds” means contributions from the candidate and his or her immediate family by blood or marriage. For purposes of this article “immediate family” means spouse, children, parents and siblings.


Statement of Intent to Self Fund. A candidate for a primary, general or recall election who intends to be a self funded candidate shall file with the county clerk-election division a statement signed under penalty of perjury which states that the candidate intends to self fund in an amount exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars. The candidate shall file the statement at the same time that the candidate files his or her declaration of candidacy.


Individual Campaign Contribution Limit Increased for Opponent of Self Funded Candidate. For an election cycle, for a candidate who is not a self funded candidate, the amount of the individual campaign contribution limit shall be increased to five thousand dollars if: (1) the candidate’s opponent(s) files a statement of intent to self fund in an amount exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars, or (2) if without filing such a statement, the opponent makes loans and contributions of his or her personal funds to his or her campaign or campaign committee, in the aggregate amount of more than twenty-five thousand dollars and makes expenditures exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars.

(Ords. 2005-22 § 7, 99-40 § 7, 98-6).

530-2.709 – Loan of candidate’s personal funds.

If a supervisorial candidate makes loans and contributions of his or her personal funds to his or her campaign or campaign committee which in the aggregate exceed twenty-five thousand dollars once the candidate or his or her campaign committee has made expenditures exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars the amount loaned shall be deemed a contribution from the candidate to his or her campaign or campaign committee, and the candidate shall not be entitled to repayment of the monies loaned, except as provided in Section 530-2.705(b) of this title.

(Ords. 2005-22 § 8, 98-6 § 9).

530-2.904 – Disclosure by self funded candidate for the office of county supervisor.


Any self funded candidate or campaign committee of such candidate shall list the following information in a clear and legible manner on the front page of any mass mailing (delivered to residences by any means including hand delivery) by the candidate or committee for the race in which the candidate runs for supervisorial office: “Self funded candidate.”


When making the disclosure required in subsection (a), the candidate or his or her campaign committee must use bold face print in no less than ten point type.


For purposes of this section “front page” shall mean the envelope, page, or panel where the address is, or in the case of unaddressed items, any outside panel.


For purposes of this section “self funded candidate” has the same meaning as in Section 530-2.708 “Self funded candidate,” subsection (a) “self funded candidate defined.”

(Ord. 98-6 § 13).

Article 530-2.10. Enforcement

530-2.1003 – Penalties.

Pursuant to Section 51-4.404, every violation of this division is a misdemeanor and punishable as such, except that failure to file a timely report as required by Section 530-2.802 is an infraction punishable by a fine of one hundred dollars.

(Ords. 84-51, 84-13, 84-9).

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • Elwood

    Looks to me like a desperation move on the part of Mitchoff.

    She thought she was marching smoothly to her coronation on the BofS just as she marched to be mayor of PH, and then along came McGill and the march wasn’t so smooth any more.

  • Karen Eckerson

    Looks to me like McGill violated county law.

    McGill challenged Mitchoff to work for a $1 a year, is he willing to do that? I doubt it. And if he was “confused” by conversations with county staff over the self-funding rules, how is he going to deal with the more complex issues that will face the next supervisor?

    And isn’t it a little self-serving to point out that Mitchoff received contributions from the unions and then go on to say, “. . .but I don’t want to start throwing mud . . .”? I think the mud was already thrown, but he doesn’t want to make himself a target because he has accepted contributions from builders and contractors. I’m sure they have no ulterior motive . . .

  • Arne

    From my reading of the County ordinance, it just looks like Mike McGill will have to consider the amount he loaned his campaign over $25,000 to to a contribution.

    Since Mike McGill isn’t beholding to the unions, he will be a Supervisor who will represent the people of Contra Costa and work to strip current employees of the spiking of their pensions. That is something Mitchoff won’t do.

  • Mike F.

    I’ll take the guy who self-funded his campaign over the person who relied on union donations and machine politics. She thought it would be a cake-walk by declaring her candidacy with less than 6 months on the PH City Council, and then got anointed through so-called right of ascension within machine politics of Contra Costa (Torlakson, DeSaulnier, Bonilla and assumed is Mitchoff). Stop crying foul when the foul of union cronies happened long ago, as you’d trounce any little guy in the race. Turns out the little guy, McGill, may have made this the race to watch.

  • D. M.

    I don’t get it…when did it become a bad thing to be a public servant? Ms. Mitchoff has worked many years in local government beginning her career in a clerical position and working up the ranks, going back to school, and bettering herself. She wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth and has worked hard to achieve her current status. As a single working woman, I applaud her guts and determination…she is an inspiration to other women to go after their dreams and step up to their potential.

  • Elwood

    Re: #5

    It’s also called making a career of having your snout in the public trough.

    Career public employees are not that popular these days.

  • Sad state of affairs

    How sad is it that making a career choice to be a civil servant is “not popular” these days? These employees spend their lives serving the public in a variety of capacities. From firefighters and police to doctors in the trauma units in our County hospital. They serve the aged and young in our social services departments and make sure our roads and environment are safe and healthy through community development. The list of services goes on and on.

    They don’t make this career choice because it’s going to make them rich. Granted in today’s economy, civil servants are for the most part, in a more secure work environment with decent benefits. During high economic times, private industry is the place to be. Along with this choice comes risk.

    I guess the best analogy is the tale of the tortoise and the hare. Civil servants are the tortoise…steady and slow, responsibly planning for their future.

    Shame on you Elwood for your comment above… public employees support our communities at the very core and provide many services that you are a benefactor of.

    You may think it’s not be a popular choice these days but it certainly is a necessary one. God bless public employees. They work hard with little or no recognition.

  • Mike F.

    I was once a public employee, it’s easy to excel to a point. I managed a large office and budget at a State Agency, but still had to compensate for the established “raises, rights, respect” crowd that gave me 25% effort. Eventually many of those that excel get stifled by the system and the threat they pose to their bosses and co-workers. There is a lot of waste, and I mean public employees that do nothing while the hard-working ones make up the difference. The State is readying to have a layoff – the problem is that they’ll trim much of the “muscle” (young, motivated talent), but keep the a lot of “fat” (lazy, embedded non-talent). The State can chest beat that it lost weight, but they’ll have gotten rid of the wrong weight making the situation worse. Not everyone in public service is a poor employee, there are exceptional people, but there is a significant segment of waste. We could save funds by contracting out specific portions of the services to private industry without the long-term burdens of guaranteed pensions and benefits; this is called diversity too, just that single-minded public servants can’t realize it.