Berkeley City Council member charged with campaign finance violations

Lori Dortse/Courtesy

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District 8 City Councilmember Lori Droste was charged with a fine of $750 as a result of campaign finance violations at a Fair Campaign Practices Commission meeting Thursday, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

Droste reached an agreement with the commission for the fine concerning a campaign event in August 2018 in which she used a space without paying rent for it. While Droste had the permission of the landowner, Gordon Commercial Real Estate Services, to use the space, its donation exceeded the city limits for individual donation amounts.

At the time of the decision, the commission was operating under new campaign finance rules that were passed in 2016 and implemented for last year’s election. The new measures provide public funding for candidates who want it and place caps on the largest donations that individual candidates can accept to their campaigns.

Those who accepted the public funding, such as Droste, who accepted the maximum amount of $40,000 in matching funds, were only allowed to accept individual donations of less than $50. Those who chose not to accept the public funding could accept donations of up to $250.

While the donation of company’s space was nonmonetary, the cost was likely worth about $750, when the eight-hour use of the space and its rent were taken into consideration, according to a commission staff report.

According to Berkeleyside, Droste’s campaign accepted full responsibility for both the charges and the fine. Droste called the error “inadvertent” and said she thought the space for the campaign event would not have to be reported.

Other candidates also came close to violating the new rules, and some expressed discontent with details of the new policy, Berkeleyside reported. The law has been edited since the 2016 election to allow leeway for the higher costs of launching a campaign and to clarify several of the stipulations.

Contact Katherine Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.