In the midst of an ongoing investigation by a federal, state, and local task force the Voice of OC has been doing some investigating of their own into the correlation between Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s campaign fundraising and her official actions as a member of the CalOPTIMA board. In a story published last Friday, Voice of OC points out Nguyen may have violated the provisions of the Levine Act.
The story states:
The Levine Act is aimed at local elected officials who try to use their appointments to other agencies to raise campaign funds.
The law generally prohibits local elected officials from approving or influencing contracts or permits for anyone who gave a campaign contribution of more than $250 in the 12 months before the vote or three months afterward.
It doesn’t apply directly to boards of supervisors or city councils, but it does cover supervisors or council members who also sit on other agencies, such as water, transportation or other governmental boards.
In addition to votes in public meetings, votes taken in closed sessions, such as settlements of lawsuits, also fall under the law.
Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen may have violated state campaign finance laws when she voted at CalOptima, the county’s managed health care plan, for $300,000 worth of contracts with an outside attorney, including one vote just days after the lawyer contributed $1,800 to her re-election campaign, according to a Voice of OC review of campaign finance records and meeting minutes.
The close timing of the contribution and the votes is exactly what the Levine Act is supposed to prohibit, according to the author of the state law. The law generally prohibits local elected officials who also are appointed to other government agencies from using the second position to raise campaign funds.
Supervisor Nguyen has admitted to being an aggressive fundraiser but claims that all of her fundraising activities have occurred within the law.
Voice of OC reports that:
Since coming onto the board and reshaping its structure in favor of hospitals, medical providers and county agencies, Nguyen’s contributions from the health industry spiked from around $15,000 to more than $95,000.
In March, Voice of OC reported that several County vendors have stated that they were contacted by Nguyen or her staff while their contracts were pending consideration by the Board of Supervisors.
It appears to us that Supervisor Nguyen is dancing on the edge of Occam’s Razor; the philosophical principle that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. While we are certain that Nguyen may posit that her fundraising efforts, and the correlating contributions received, have nothing to do with contracts and agreements she has voted on; we question the validity of such a conclusion, unless the application of Occam’s Razor is disproved by evidence.