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Campaign Contribution Ordinance to Go to Legislative Policy Committee

Published on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 | 6:22 am

Pasadena’s Campaign Contribution Ordinance will head next to the Council’s Legislative Policy Committee.

That decision was made by the City Council Monday after nearly two dozen local residents voiced their disapproval on the item.

“I am concerned about conflicts of interest that we have not addressed,’ said Michelle White. “I think we should have in place a rule against accepting money from police unions.”

The opposition to the policy moved two Councilmembers; Gene Masuda and Andy Wilson joined Jessica Rivas, who appeared ready to vote against the policy.

Historically, local council campaigns have not had contribution limits, but Assembly Bill 571, which took effect in January, limits municipal campaign contributions to $4,900 per contributor during an election.

In order to maintain control of local campaign finance contribution limits, the council felt compelled to pass the ordinance.

“We’re not eliminating something that was here before,” said Councilmember Felcia Williams.

The nomination period for the June 7 election opens on Feb. 14. Seats 3, 5 and 7 will be up for grabs.

The city was already forced to move to the state’s election calendar to increase voter turnout.

“When we moved to state elections, it increased the cost,” said Mayor Victor Gordo.

At least three candidates have already announced their intentions to run, including District 5 incumbent Rivas, who is the first city council incumbent to raise money under the new state limit law.

On June 28, an ad hoc committee consisting of Mayor Gordo and Councilmembers Steve Madison and Felicia Williams met with City Attorney Michele Bagneris and City Clerk Mark Jomsky to discuss the campaign contributions issue.

According to the Public Affairs Council, a group of nonpartisan and nonpolitical professionals that advance the field of public affairs, campaign limits don’t clean up campaigns, but instead provide an advantage to incumbents.

Political science professors from the University of Missouri have studied almost 66,000 state legislative races over three decades, ending in 2018, looking at the effects of state laws that limit contributions from corporations and individuals. They concluded there are “strong pro-incumbent effects from both full public financing and prohibitions on corporate independent expenditures.

Other reports claim that campaign limits force challengers to spend time playing catch up against incumbents and lessens their time speaking to the voters.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that contribution limits can be unconstitutional if they are “too low and too strict.” The court observed that such low limits can “harm the electoral process by preventing challengers from mounting effective campaigns against incumbent officeholders, thereby reducing democratic accountability.”

Gordo, the first local challenger to unseat an incumbent since 1987 when Bill Paparian defeated Jo Heckman in 1987, said he could not have won the mayor’s race with campaign limits.

“There’s no way I could have been an option as a candidate, a viable candidate, without the ability to ask residents to contribute dollars, and they did,” Gordo said.

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