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A better use for "leftover" campaign funds

A better use for "leftover" campaign funds

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Whilst I am pleased the Napa County Board of Supervisors recently voted to observe California state law regarding campaign contributions that states “A person may not make to a candidate or the candidate’s controlled committee, and a candidate or the candidate’s controlled committee may not accept from a person, any contribution or series of contributions totaling more than the per election amount permitted [$4,900],” there still seems to be confusion and perhaps even loopholes over how candidates are accepting campaign contributions. I look forward to our questions being answered.

In the meantime, I have created a change.org petition in the hopes of helping the Napa Valley Food Bank while also raising awareness of an issue that I think is of great interest to the public: campaign financing.

In this petition, we are asking the Board of Supervisors to donate their “leftovers” to the Food Bank. The sum from all five supervisors at last look was $160,796.50, with the highest sum of $69,203.59, held by Alfredo Pedroza. I know the NVR has cited this issue in the past, most recently reporting, “Spending forms from the race show most contributions were $5,000 or less. Among the exceptions, vintner Craig Hall gave Pedroza’s campaign $15,000,” yet this is only a fraction of the story.

Since Alfredo Pedroza’s win in 2016, Craig Hall has given Pedroza $35,000, Chuck Wagner $25,000, Peter Read/Circle R Ranch $23,100, The Doctors Company $23,000, Busch (under various names) $21,625, Betty Wools $16,000 and D. Sattui (under various names) $14,900. These are only the top seven, to compare with the $15,000 listed in the article, with another 22 sources that exceed $5,000, since winning the election in 2016. In fact, the total from these 29 sources is $363,975. This is an excess of $218,975 beyond the $5,000 mentioned. This is an average donation on $12,551, far beyond $5,000.00.

I have thought of a wonderful solution for these leftover campaign funds in light of the new ordinance: let’s donate them to the food bank. This would really level the playing field and illustrate the supervisors’ commitment to democracy.

I have spoken at great length with the food bank to understand their needs and whilst I know the county did give them some funds last year, they were restricted to “food only” and they had to fight very hard to use a chunk of them to cover the rent of their warehouse. Nothing was to be used for operational or personnel needs, so I’d like to encourage the BOS to give their leftovers to the Food Bank with the stipulation that they are unrestricted or if they must be restricted, restrict them to operational and personnel costs.

I also understand they would have liked to have given their staff a bonus for their tireless efforts during the pandemic, as one of the few services who was called to rise, not stay at home during our quarantines. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful surprise?

I have heard from one supervisor since launching this petition. Belia Ramos recently brought me a check, adding it was with pleasure that she gives this money to our food bank. She stated it feels like "the right thing to do," and it is my hope this is how the others will see it.

I know there are many people employed in jobs that are tied to county money and feel a bit hesitant about putting their name on a petition that calls our decision-makers to do something they may not want to do, but what I would say to those who are reluctant is that we need to think bigger than ourselves. We need to think of our fellow residents who have struggled through these times as well as those who have endured hardships before and after the pandemic. COVID-19 has called upon us all to reexamine the way we do things and run our lives.

Our food bank is no exception. They have adapted and continue to thrive, despite numerous obstacles. No doubt, future crises are upon us and these funds will help them continue to strategize when the next hardships hit us. The petition has plenty more information and I hope the community will support it and in turn, support our front-line workers at the food bank: change.org/feednapacounty.

Beth Nelsen

Napa

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