Taxpayers spent $200k trying to tie up Bredefeld, Chavez campaign war chests, Fresno Co. says.

The two Fresno lawmakers overcame an effort by Fresno County’s Supervisors to tie up six-figure campaign war chests ahead of the March Primary.

Fresh off a legal victory against the County of Fresno, a pair of Fresno City Councilmen and County Supervisorial contenders are demanding county officials provide a detailed accounting of taxpayer spending on lawyers to defend a ban on their ability to utilize campaign funds in the March 5, 2024 primary.

Fresno County Supervisors sought to leverage campaign finance rules to block Fresno City Councilmen Garry Bredefeld and Luis Chavez from transferring sizable campaign war chests to run against incumbents Steve Brandau and Sal Quintero. The legal gambit failed.


The backstory: In 2020, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors limited campaign contribution limits at $30,000 from a single source, later saying the limit included intra-campaign transfers, which would keep a candidate from moving money from a City Council campaign account to a Board of Supervisors campaign account. 

  • Bredefeld and Chavez launched their respective campaigns for the Board of Supervisors and indicated that they would both move all of their campaign funds, totalling well over $30,000 each, to new accounts. 
  • Fresno County filed a lawsuit against both councilmen to limit their moves to $30,000, but last September Skiles ruled in favor of Bredefeld and Chavez, saying intra-campaign transfers are not contributions and are protected under the First Amendment as political speech. 

Driving the news: Tuesday, Bredefeld and Chavez announced their filing of a Public Records Act request demanding an accounting of spending on attorneys with Southern California-based law firm Best, Best & Krieger LLP.

  • At a press conference announcing the demand, Bredefeld and Chavez pilloried Fresno County Supervisors and its chief lawyer – County Counsel Daniel Cedeborg – for weaponizing county offices against political opponents of incumbent Supervisors.
  • The pair mused that legal fees could have run taxpayers upwards of $700 per hour per lawyer, not including costs associated with handling the lawsuit the Fresno County Counsel’s Office.

What they’re saying: “Unethical politicians often prioritize their job security above all else. Even with this focus on self preservation, many resist the temptation to misuse taxpayer dollars to stifle political opposition,” Bredefeld said on Tuesday. “However, the Board of Supervisors and Fresno county standards is a recent notable exception to this general restraint.”

  • “Change, transparency and accountability are coming to this building, when we’re elected,” Bredefeld said of him and Chavez. “And [the Board of Supervisors] need change and transparency and accountability.”
  • “The part that bothered me from the offset of this conversation was the fact that the County decided to weaponize their county taxpayer paid legal office for political purposes,” Chavez said. “That is something very dangerous and unprecedented. And we want to make sure that that that that does not happen again, here in Fresno County.”
  • “These tactics that were used in Fresno County are what you usually find in third world countries, in places like Russia, where the dictator goes after opponents for political purposes,” Chavez said.

The other side: In interviews on Tuesday, Fresno County Counsel Daniel Cederborg said that the estimated total spent on the litigation exceeded $200,000, with $72,000 belonging to Bell McAndrews & Hiltachk LLP, the lawyers representing Bredefeld and Chavez.

  • That estimate didn’t take into account staff time within his own office.
  • Cederborg pushed back on claims that he was pressured into litigation by the Board of Supervisors.
  • “This call was based on my advice, not pressure from the Board of Supervisors,” Cederborg told GV Wire, “… to make sure that everybody was treated the same and was operating under the same rules. And that left only a declaratory relief action as the only option for us.”
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