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Ethics Commission signs off on campaign finance reforms for LA City Hall

The Ethics Commission signed off on a batch of campaign finance reforms today, including a requirement that only those donations from Angelenos can count toward matching funds.
The Ethics Commission signed off on a batch of campaign finance reforms today, including a requirement that only those donations from Angelenos can count toward matching funds. Alice Walton/KPCC

Under a package of campaign finance reforms given preliminary approval today by the Ethics Commission, only those donations given by Los Angeles residents would count toward the city’s matching funds programs and candidates for the Los Angeles City Council would be required to receive funds from at least 200 donors living within their districts.

The reforms are intended to give more influence to the average voter and less to major donors and independent expenditure campaigns.

The city of Los Angeles provides city council candidates with public funds if they opt into the program and raise $25,000. For controller and city attorney candidates, the threshold is $75,000, and for mayoral candidates it is $150,000.  Starting with the March 2015 primary, that money must come from Angelenos in order to qualify for matching funds.

Additionally, city council candidates must raise money from at least 200 individual donors who live in the district they hope to represent. In the 2001 and 2003 city elections, 10 percent of council candidates received 200 or more contributions from within their districts. The Ethics Commission found that in those elections, the Eleventh District had the most in-district contributions at 38.7 percent. District Seven had the fewest in-district donations at just 2.8 percent.

Other reforms approved by the Ethics Commission include:

  • Candidates must establish separate social media accounts for their campaigns
  • Independent expenditures must be disclosed to the Ethics Commission within 24 hours
  • Disclaimers on independent expenditures should identify the group’s top to contributors
  • Live phone calls and audio and video communications must be disclosed to the Ethics Commission
  • Candidates will have 90 days, up from 30 days, to pay bills before incurring a penalty

A discussion on officeholders' accounts was delayed until at least October. 

The reforms approved today require approval from the Los Angeles City Council. Implementing ordinances are expected to be presented to the Ethics Commission at its July meeting. 

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