City Council to take up campaign finance reform

The City Council is poised to put limits on City Council campaign funding.

A proposed law scheduled to come before the City Council on Tuesday would cap contributions while giving more flexibility to candidates willing to voluntarily limit fundraising.

In districts one through four, candidates who agree to spend less than $30,000 would be able to accept individual contributions of up to $1,500. Those who want to spend more than $30,000 could only accept $1,000 from individual donors.

In the fifth at-large district, the voluntary expenditure limit would be $50,000, which would allow the candidate to accept $2,000 per donor. If the candidate wanted to raise more than $50,000 he or she could accept donations up to $1,500.

The law also limits the size of the loan a campaign can take to $15,000.

The issue was brought up in June by Councilman David Gafin, and the council spent several meetings hashing out a plan they thought worked for the city.

“We didn’t want someone coming here with a lot of money from interest groups,” Gafin said. “We haven’t seen it happen here, but we have seen it in other cities.”

He was most worried about relatively uncontested elections, which he believed would favor a candidate with deep pockets.

“It would have been nice to put a hard cap on spending, but I guess the courts have found that to be unconstitutional,” Gafin said.

The California Supreme Court has struck down laws regulating total campaign expenditures but has allowed cities to make limits on contributions, Downey City Attorney Yvette Abich Garcia said.

The court’s logic was that limiting the contribution could reduce the chance of buying influence over a candidate, but the same could not be said about expenditures, Abich Garcia said.

 

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