A Los Angeles City Council committee Wednesday moved forward a recommendation calling for the city to further lower the bar for what is required of candidates to receive taxpayer matching campaign funds.
Last year, the City Council approved a new threshold for candidates seeking matching funds, voting that they would need to raise at least $20,000 in donations to qualify for matching funds, down from $25,000, but not the $11,500 Councilman Mike Bonin had recommended in a proposed amendment.
The Ethics Commission in February unanimously recommended lowering the amount close to Bonin’s suggestion, at $11,400.
Bonin and dozens of organizations have called for the required level to be reduced, arguing that other big cities, including Washington, D.C., and New York City, have thresholds that are far lower than in Los Angeles.
The changes made by the council last year also reduced how much of each eligible donation the city would match, going from $250 for City Council races to around $115.
Critics argued that the lowered maximum contribution would continue to make it harder for candidates without deep pockets to be viable, because they still would have to collect a high number of donations. Under the $25,000 threshold, candidates needed at least 100 donations, but the recent changes meant they needed 176.
The changes recommended by the commission would return the number of required donations to 100.
“It was a big step in the right direction to expand the matching funds program. But we believe it is an unintentional but cruel irony that in doing so we actually made it more difficult for grassroots candidates to qualify,” Bonin’s deputy chief of staff, David Graham-Caso, told the Ethics Commission before the vote.
The proposed changes were approved by the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee and are expected to come before the City Council for a vote soon.