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Manteca leaders reviewing option under state law to cap individual political donations

Individuals can legally donate up to $4,700 in any calendar year to a specific candidate seeking election to the Manteca City Council.

That is the current cap under state law.

However, an amendment to the 1984 Political Reform Act allows cities without independent campaign contribution limits to set their own limits or default to the state’s cap.

The City Council when they meet for a Zoom meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. will discuss possibly imposing contribution caps that are lower than the $4,700 allowed by the state. The meeting can be viewed being livestreamed via the city’s website or on Comcast Channel 97.

It could be a touchy subject for the current council.

Mayor Ben Cantu, while not formally announcing if he is running again in 2022, has repeatedly referenced he would pursue various policies including a tax increase even if it meant that it would cost him re-election.

Councilman Gary Singh has all but announced officially his intention to challenge Cantu.

Based on filings as of Dec. 31, 2020:

*Singh has $32,787 left in his campaign account with an outstanding debt of $3,000. He raised $76,068 — a record for Manteca — in his successful November 2020 re-election race.

*Cantu has a zero balance. He raised $30,441 in his successful 2018 mayoral race.

*Jose Nuño, who is up for reelection, in 2022 has $426.08 in his campaign account. He raised $49,431 in the 2018 campaign.

*Dave Breitenbucher, who is up for reelection in 2022, has $782.05 in his campaign account. He raised $14,244 in the 2018 election.

*Charlie Halford has $75.93 in his campaign account as well as a $2,000 debt. He raised $21,692 for his successful election.

Instituting a cap — especially if it is as low as $100 in advance of the 2022 race — would give Singh a distinct edge in the ability to spend money on the race.

Traditionally the bulk of reportable contributions that are in excess of $99 in terms of dollars raised are in the form of $1,000, $500, and $250. In terms of the number of donations per se more are $100.

The bulk of the larger contributions in Manteca elections come from developers, construction-related businesses and trades, agricultural interests, and small businesses

Unlike previous elections due to the COVID-19 lockdowns there were no small contribution events — dinners and such — where ticket were sold for $99 or less. Things could turn to normal by the 2022 election.

Even with caps there are legal work arounds. If the city, for example, capped annual contributions at $500, someone who would normally give a candidate a $1,000 donation could have their spouse or significant other donate $500 on top of the $500 they donate.

 Simply collecting and spending more money doesn’t assure a candidate of victory. Cantu was outspent 2 to 1 by then incumbent Steve DeBrum in 2018 but still won the mayoral election.

Overall, the 2018 election was the most expensive on record. There was $175,931 spent by all candidates that ran for two council seats and the mayor’s post. The next highest was 2014 when the same three seats were up and $123,845 was raised. Third on the list at $110,755 was the 2016 election when only two seats were up for grabs.

Thirteen of 43 cities in a survey indicated they had local contribution limits ranging from $250 to $1,240 per individual.

Some cities have found that switching to district elections for council members and a citywide election for mayor had lowered the cost of running for elected office at least for the council positions. That’s because with districts any council hopeful only needs to reach a quarter of a city’s population in their campaigns.

Cities that choose to adopt local contribution limits under AB 571 must consider how their own agency will enforce such restrictions, the cost of that enforcement, and how it will pay such expenditure within the budget. AB 571 does not permit the Fair Political Practices Commission to administer or enforce locally set contribution limits.


How to comment

There are four other ways for the public to make comments and have them included as part of the record.

*The first is eComment where you call up the agenda on the city’s website. New users will need to follow instructions to make an account. The comments are made by going down the agenda on the website and clicking on the eComment icon. Only one comment is allowed per agenda items of up to 500 characters. Any eComment can be at any time up to the item being heard by the council.

*Emailing a comment to up until two hours before the meeting. Comments 250 words and under will be read into the record while those over 250 words will be made a part of the official record but not publically read. Copies of the email comments over 250 words will be provided to council members.

*Mail comments to the City Clerk’s office at 1001 W. Center St, Ste. B, Manteca, CA, 95337 that is received up to two hours before the meeting start. The same email word rules apply.

*Hand delivered comments to the city clerk’s door drop slot no later than two hours prior to the meeting. The same email world rules apply.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email