Politics, government and public life for Southern California

LA City Hall changing way public dollars are given to political campaigns

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A proposal that would provide more public dollars to local campaigns was given preliminary approval Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council.

The move was welcomed by California Common Cause as a way to make smaller donors more powerful in major city elections. 

Currently, city council candidates who qualify for matching funds can have the first $250 of a donation matched dollar-for-dollar by the city. That means a donation of $250 effectively becomes a $500 donation. For citywide candidates, the first $500 of a donation are matchable. 

Under the proposal, which is expected to receive final approval next week, beginning in 2013 candidates would receive a two-to-one match on donations in a primary election and a four-to-one match in the general. 

Beginning in 2015, only those donations from Los Angeles residents will be eligible for matching funds. City council candidates would also be required to get 200 donations of $5 or more from within their district.

“What these reforms say is that our L.A. taxpayers deserve to be the focus of our city officials’ attention — not the residents of Beverly Hills or outside special interests,” said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause. “The new changes supported by the L.A. City Council will incentivize more candidates to fundraise and communicate more with their L.A. constituents.”

Because there were not 12 city council members present at Wednesday's meeting, the proposal will come up for a second vote next week. 

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