A Los Angeles City Council committee is set to consider major changes Tuesday that would lower the bar for what is required of candidates to receive taxpayer matching campaign funds, while also increasing the amount they could get.
Among the new rules under consideration is eliminating the need for candidates to get signatures in order to quality for matching funds.
Currently, qualified candidates who collect 500 valid signatures — which is also the number required to qualify for the ballot — during the nominating petition process receive a match rate of 1:1 in the primary and the general election, and qualified candidates who collect 1,000 valid signatures receive a match rate of 2:1 in the primary and 4:1 in the general.
The new rules would let all qualified candidates receive a match rate of 6:1 in the primary and the general, and the total amount candidates can receive in matching funds would also increase. For City Council candidates, the amount would increase from $100,000 in the primary and $125,000 in the general election to $151,000 in the primary or $189,000 in the general. Candidates for city controller, city attorney and mayor would also see increases, with the mayor’s going from $800,000 in the general election to $1,208,000. The amounts would also have annual adjustments for the consumer price index.
The changes would also reduce how much of each eligible donation the city would match, going from $250 for City Council races to one-seventh of the maximum contribution allowed. For the City Council, the maximum contribution allowed is $800, making the eligible amount for matching funds around $115.
City Council candidates would still need to raise at least $25,000 in donations to qualify for matching funds, while the city controller and city attorney candidates would need $75,000 and mayoral candidates would need $150,000. This has been one of the sticking points for 30 organizations in favor the changes, and they are asking for the amounts to be lowered, arguing they are much higher than other large cities. Councilman Mike Bonin introduced an amendment during a City Council meeting in October which would reduce the required level, including to $11,500 for City Council candidates.
“At $25,000 dollars, that’s twice as high as the next highest municipality, Washington, D.C., and five times as high as New York City, even though our districts aren’t twice as large,” Rob Quan with Unrig LA told the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee a few months ago.
The proposed changes are included in a draft ordinance set to be considered by the Rules, Elections Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which will also consider Bonin’s amendment.
“This campaign finance reform measure aims to empower our communities and reduce the influence of special interests and large, private donors in our local elections,” Councilman Paul Krekorian said in October. “By increasing the public matching funds rate, we are strengthening an important mechanism gives regular Angelenos more say in the democratic process.”
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