Statement: “Over the next three months, expect a vigorous and costly campaign as there are no limits on how much money can be donated,” KUSI reported last week about a ballot measure that would require San Diego city officials to reform financial policies before raising the sales tax.

Determination: True

Analysis: San Diego’s election rules limit how much money individuals can contribute to City Council candidates and advocacy groups called political action committees. They can give up to $500 to candidates and up to $1,000 to the advocacy groups.

But these limits won’t affect campaign fundraising for this fall’s ballot blockbuster. City election laws set no contribution limits for ballot measure campaigning. So KUSI’s statement is true.

Political observers expect the campaign will be vigorous and costly since it pits institutional powers against each other. If approved, the ballot measure would require city officials to complete a series of financial reforms before raising the sales tax by half a cent.

The City Council’s six Democrats, Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders and labor groups support the ballot measure. The council’s two Republicans and political groups such as the Lincoln Club and San Diego County Taxpayers Association oppose it.

Fire union officials have said campaign fundraising for the ballot measure could reach $1 million. Tom Shepard, a political consultant for the supporters, said fundraising likely wouldn’t exceed half that amount.

Earlier this year, Shepard organized the successful campaign to establish strong mayor as San Diego’s permanent form of government. That ballot measure campaign, with no funded opposition, raised around $500,000.

“This is a very difficult fundraising environment all over,” Shepard said, citing the economic recession. “I would be flabbergasted if it’s more than that for this one.”

Jen Jacobs, a political consultant for City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who appears to be leading the charge against the ballot measure, declined to estimate how opponents plan to raise. DeMaio has previously promised to use his own personal resources to fight it.

Shepard predicted the ballot measure’s opponents could match the money raised by its supporters. But he downplayed the role organizations like the county’s Republican Party and the Lincoln Club would play in the fundraising. Shepard has consulted for both groups in the past.

“I know where they get their money and I think many of those people are supporting this measure,” he said.

In any event, election laws won’t restrict how much money those people can contribute to either campaign.

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Summer Polacek

Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

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