Political Notebook

Patterson wants politicians who quit mid-term to pay for special elections

Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, wants elected officials who leave office early for the private sector to use any leftover campaign funds to pay for the special election to fill the seat.
Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, wants elected officials who leave office early for the private sector to use any leftover campaign funds to pay for the special election to fill the seat. Special to the Bee

Assemblyman Jim Patterson is drafting legislation that, had it been law last month, would have required fellow Assemblyman Henry T. Perea to pay Fresno County for the special election to fill his seat.

Under the Fresno Republican’s proposal, if an elected official quits during a term to take a private sector job, that politician would be required to use any leftover campaign funds to pay for the special election to fill the seat. Patterson’s bill would also force those politicians to donate any leftover cash, after paying for a special election, to charity – and not to fellow politicians or political causes.

“If you are sitting on cash you have raised, I can’t think of a better way to use it than for an election you’ve triggered,” Patterson said.

If you are sitting on cash you have raised, I can’t think of a better way to use it than for an election you’ve triggered.

Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno

The idea came during a KMJ radio appearance last week, when a caller suggested a departing politician pay for the special election to fill the seat, if one is needed.

“I thought, ‘Hey, that’s a heck of a good idea,’ ” Patterson said.

Perea resigned his seat Dec. 31, a year before the end of his third and final Assembly term. Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth estimates Perea’s decision to resign early will cost Fresno County taxpayers between $530,000 and $575,000 to put on the special election. Gov. Jerry Brown called the election for April 5.

If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote on April 5, a runoff between the top two finishers would be June 7. Fresno County taxpayers would be on the hook for an additional $75,000 to $100,000 if that happens.

As of June 30, Perea had more than $900,000 in two active campaign accounts.

But Perea isn’t the only elected official in Sacramento to leave office early, and certainly isn’t the only one on Patterson’s mind as he drafts the legislation.

Another example is Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio, who resigned from the state Senate in 2013 to take a job heading Chevron Corp.’s government relations team in Sacramento. At the time, he had more than $200,000 in his campaign account. He gave some back to donors and also contributed some to charity, but mostly spread that cash around to politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, as well as Democratic organizations.

Perea is going to work for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA. He will be a senior director of state advocacy.

Patterson said it especially isn’t right to dole out campaign cash to fellow elected officials when a politician leaves early to take jobs with Chevron or PhRMA when they still might have dealings with their former colleagues.

The prospects of Patterson’s proposal in the Democratic-dominated state Assembly are unclear.

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