Editorials

Sacramento County, meet the Internet age

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones will challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Ami Bera for California's 7th Congressional District seat.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones will challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Ami Bera for California's 7th Congressional District seat. AP

In 2015, Sacramento County’s leaders still fail to fully grasp this World Wide Web thing and the transparency it requires of them.

In a baby step into the Internet, Sacramento County elected officials began posting their campaign finance reports online this year, something the state and federal governments and many California cities and counties have been doing for years. You’d think the wait would be worth it. It’s not. Sacramento County’s hard-to-find site has the look of one that could have been built 15 years ago.

That it’s far from state of the art is not the worst part. The Board of Supervisors made filing voluntary. To their credit, the supervisors did place their 2015 reports online, as did District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. But reports from prior years are not on the site.

Sheriff Scott Jones, however, didn’t see the point of filing electronically, and instead complied with the letter of the law by delivering a paper report to the Registrar of Voters. A cavalier attitude toward transparency is unacceptable for any elected official. But, as the Republican sheriff may discover, the level of scrutiny is greater now that he has announced plans to challenge Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, for a congressional seat that encompasses much of Sacramento County.

Jones’ congressional campaign strategist, Dave Gilliard, said in an email that the county “only required paper filings, so that is what he did for past sheriff races.” Jones did not respond to inquiries from The Sacramento Bee about his failure to file electronically.

The cost to copy Jones’ campaign reports dating to 2009 is $76.90, plus $3.75 if you use one of those – what do you call them? – debit cards. It’d be more, but several pages were missing.

To review Jones’ campaign finance reports – or the other officials’ pre-2015 reports – a voter must visit the Registrar of Voters office at 7000 65th St., seven miles from downtown Sacramento.

The cost to copy Jones’ campaign reports dating to his first race in 2010 is $76.90, plus $3.75 if you use one of those – what do you call them? – debit cards. The dime-per-page cost would be greater, except that several pages are missing from the paper reports.

In the first half of 2015, Jones raised $13,501, including two $5,000 donations and one of $3,500. More interesting, perhaps, is that Jones donated his campaign money to various groups, thereby currying favor with them: $300 to the Greater Sacramento Vietnamese-American Chamber of Commerce, $340 to Bradshaw Christian School, $450 to the Sacramento chapter of the NAACP, $750 to the California Police Chiefs Association, $800 to Gun Owners of California.

Last year, he gave another $800 to Gun Owners and $1,700 to the National Rifle Association.

Sacramento County’s paper filing system and clunky website are a throwback to when politicians could more easily keep voters in the dark about their campaign contributions. Clearly, some politicians are nostalgic for that bad old time.

Voters in Congressional District 7 should consider many factors when deciding whom to support next year. Surely one factor is a candidate’s willingness to be transparent.

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