FARMINGTON — Campaign donations could be limited to $100 per donor in the next Farmington city election.
On Tuesday, the city council discussed a campaign finance reform ordinance, and council is expected to take final action on June 25. Farmington currently has no such campaign finance reporting regulations or requirements.
The ordinance that was originally proposed required candidates for mayor, city council or municipal judge to report who donated to their campaigns, how much money was given and how they spent those funds.
The discussion on Tuesday evening, however, grew to include calls for donation and spending caps.
Councilors gave consensus to add a section to the proposed ordinance that would cap donations at $100 per donor.
Imposing a spending cap may not be an option.
Jay Burnham, the city attorney, said that campaign spending limits cannot be imposed, citing the U.S. Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo.
The controversial court decision, issued on Jan. 30, 1974, upheld limits on individual contributions, requirements for campaign finance disclosure and reporting and upheld the legality of public financing. The court struck down proposed limits on campaign expenditures, independent expenditures by individuals and groups and expenditures from a candidate's personal funds.
The decision set the precedent for a number of campaign finance cases, most notably Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Councilwoman Mary Fischer asked why the proposed ordinance set no provisions for public campaign financing.
Public financing funds campaigns through smaller donations and taxpayer dollars, rather than large donations.
"My instructions were to draft a campaign finance reporting ordinance," Burnham said.
Fischer, however, still pushed for exploration of a public financing policy for city elections.
"It's just something we should look into," she said.
Mayor Tommy Roberts said he had some concerns about how to implement and administer the public financing system.
A candidate should have to meet some kind of fundraising standard before they are eligible to receive public funds, he said. Developing and implementing such a standard could be problematic.
Councilman Dan Darnell said he was concerned about the effect public financing could have on potential candidates.
"I don't have a problem with campaign financing, but I don't think that we want to get involved with an animal that's going to get people discouraged from running," Darnell said.