Southern California breaking news and trends

LA City Council moves forward with campaign finance reform recommendations

Pile of money

Tracy O./Flickr Creative Commons

The Los Angeles City Council agreed today to revise the city's matching funds program, though questions remain on the details.

A proposal to change how the City of Los Angeles provides public dollars to candidates for their political campaigns could give more power to small-time donors.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-0 Wednesday to ask the City Attorney for a draft ordinance that would implement a host of campaign finance reforms. They include a provision that would provide $2 in public funds for every qualified dollar a candidate receives in the primary. The match would increase to $4 per qualified dollar in the general election.

The city would match the first $250 for city council candidates and the first $500 for citywide candidates.

Under current rules the city matches, dollar-for-dollar, the first $250 of an individual’s contribution to a qualifying candidate. A total of $100,000 is available to a candidate in the primary and $150,000 in the general. The city currently has $12 million in its matching funds account, which comes from the general fund. 

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Committee debates campaign finance reforms for City of LA elections

Los Angeles City Hall

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A campaign finance reform that would restrict which donations may be eligible for matching funds was approved today by a Los Angeles City Council committee.

Should L.A. City Council candidates receive matching funds only for donations made by city residents, or should they apply to gifts from anyone who lives in the county? 

The idea to widen the pool was floated today by the City Council's Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee. Its members want to be less restrictive than the plan put forth by the city's Ethics Commission, which would match donations only from city residents.

Councilman Herb Wesson pointed to his own experience as an example of why the plan should be modified.

“I lived in Culver City, a half a block from Los Angeles. I was very involved in Los Angeles politics and government, more so than ... Culver City,” Wesson said.

Staff members from the Ethics Commission and California Clean Money Campaign believe the restriction on matching funds would empower city residents. Currently, all donations made to candidates who opt into the matching funds program are eligible to be matched, regardless of where the donor resides. The matching funds come from public tax dollars. A study by Common Cause found 40 percent of donations made so far to the 2013 mayoral candidates have come from outside city limits.

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Ethics Commission to regulate City Hall's social media accounts

twitter bird

The Ethics Commission is backing a proposal requiring Los Angeles' elected officials to create new social media accounts for their political campaigns.

Elected officials running for office in Los Angeles would be required to create new social media accounts for their campaigns under a policy endorsed last week by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

The proposal is intended to separate a candidate’s political work from his government work. Commissioners are expected to approve an ordinance in July to implement the proposal. It will then require approval from the Los Angeles City Council.

“Candidates often use those accounts to post information about their personal lives and professional work, in addition to information about their political campaigns.  When the candidates are also sitting elected officials, the line between government and campaign-related information is easily blurred,” according to a report from the Ethics Commission.

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

Los Angeles City Hall

Alice Walton/KPCC

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.

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.

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USC professor confirmed to LA's Ethics Commission

Ralph Fertig

USC

Ralph Fertig, a professor at USC, was unanimously confirmed to the city Ethics Commission today.

A USC professor who is known as an advocate for social justice was unanimously confirmed today to the city of Los Angeles’ Ethics Commission. 

Ralph Fertig is an appointee of Controller Wendy Greuel. His term will end on June 30, 2013.

“Democracy only works if we can level the playing field – if we can guarantee equal access and equal rights, which becomes particularly pronounced and essential in the most diverse city on the global, to open up those opportunities and keep them open,” Fertig said during his confirmation hearing.

The newest commissioner is a clinical professor at USC’s School of Social Work. Fertig was previously the executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Community Action Agency, the Metropolitan Washington Planning & Housing Association, and the Washington Welfare Association. 

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