Tuesday, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted to initiate a lawsuit against Fresno City Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Luis Chavez to prevent them from using all of their current campaign funds in next year’s election.
Supervisors Steve Brandau and Sal Quintero – who are being challenged by Bredefeld and Chavez, respectively – recused themselves from the closed session vote, which was passed unanimously by the rest of the board.
The backstory: When Bredefeld and Chavez announced their candidacies to move over from Fresno City Hall to the Fresno County Hall of Records, they indicated their intention to transfer all of their campaign funds from their respective city council races into their new funds for their board races.
- As of the latest reporting, Bredefeld had $228,388 in his city council campaign account, while Chavez had $110,018.42.
- But the county passed an ordinance in 2020 capping contributions at $30,000 per election. County leaders contend that the contribution limits apply to transfers between candidate-controlled committees.
The big picture: Amid an argument that the council members would be protected by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to transfer all of their funds, the county’s lawsuit seeks to push Bredefeld and Chavez into compliance with the 2020 ordinance.
- The county argues that FPPC regulations do not apply because of the 2020 ordinance, which was passed after Assembly Bill 571 was signed into law, which gave cities and counties the ability to set campaign contribution limits.
Bredefeld’s response: In a statement to The Sun, Bredefeld called the lawsuit a waste of taxpayer money and referred to the 2020 ordinance as an “Incumbent Protection Scheme.”
- “We are following all state laws, FPPC guidance, and are transferring individual contributions that meet contribution limits in their own ordinance. This is a callous effort to protect one of their own but it won’t work. Voters will hold Steve Brandau accountable in this race not only for his shameless attempt to use our tax dollars to try and boost his failing campaign, but also for his feckless and cowardly inaction during the pandemic where he did nothing to protect his constituents, churches, businesses or children from authoritarian lockdowns and lockouts,” Bredefeld said.
Chavez’s response: Chavez, in a statement to The Sun, said the county is weaponizing its legal and public relations department to go after those threatening the status quo.
- “This goes against the public’s constitutional right to free speech. It won’t work. The action today, deliberately and purposely interjects taxpayer dollars (staff time and letterheads and resources) into a political race, attempting to protect incumbents and subvert the democratic process. The vote today was unconstitutional and borderline illegal and amounts to a public gift of funds by expending tax dollars to help an incumbent during a political campaign,” Chavez said.