SLO County supervisorial candidates spent tens of thousands on campaigns

Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 04, 2020

As billionaire Mike Bloomberg drops out of the presidential race, many are still talking about the more than $500 million he spent throughout his campaign.

While no one locally spent a fraction of Bloomberg's budget, we're tracking what incumbent candidates for San Luis Obispo County Supervisors spent and if it was enough to keep their seats.

There are several federal and state laws that say candidates have to be as transparent as possible about where their money is coming from, but the county clerk-recorder's office has limited oversight of it all.

When it comes to running for office, there's no doubt that in addition to public support, money is necessary to get a campaign off the ground.

On the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder's Office website, you can find links on how to track what any local candidate for any office has raised and spent.

In the last year, some of the largest contributions for local candidates came from PACs, or Political Action Committees.

Supervisor Debbie Arnold received $8,500 from a real estate PAC based in Los Angeles.

Supervisor Adam Hill received $5,000 from an education PAC based in Washington, D.C.

Supervisor John Peschong received $5,000 from the Bob Nelson for Supervisor committee.

"We do accept the campaign finance filing reports on behalf of the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), but we're strictly a filing agent. We don't police the reports or keep statistics on the reports," explained San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong.

The most recent FPPC reports show for 2020 (year to date):

  • Supervisor Adam Hill received $32,122 and spent over $85,000.
  • Supervisor Debbie Arnold received $66,951 and spent over $120,000.
  • Supervisor John Peschong received $91,722 and spent over $130,000.

All three supervisors still have money left over from fundraising efforts and donations in 2019.

What the candidates are spending that money on is still a gray area as not all of it is explicitly disclosed in the FPPC report.

Cal Poly professor Michael Latner says campaign fundraising at times can often "feel like an arms race," pushing some candidates to continue to search for more money.

"Both sides of a campaign probably don't want to spend so much time raising and spending money but the fear is if one side does it, and the other side doesn't, they're going to be at a disadvantage," Latner explained.

Because the results of this race still are not certified, it is still too soon to tell if all of the campaign spending paid off.

The FPPC regulates campaign finance, financial conflicts of interest by public officials, and political mass mailings.