The City Council on Monday ordered the crafting of an ordinance that would replace State-endorsed campaign contribution limits during local elections with a no-limits Pasadena version.
A total of six council members voted to approve an ad hoc committee’s recommendation for the city to adopt an ordinance that provides that there will be no dollar limits on local campaign finance contributions.
Mayor Victor Gordo, Councilmembers Tyron Hampton, John Kennedy, Steve Madison, Gene Masuda and Felicia Williams voted for the ordinance.
Councilmember Jess Rivas voted no and Vice Mayor Andy Wilson was absent.
Assembly Bill 571, a State law which took effect last January, limits campaign contributions to $4,900 per contributor during an election.
Under the Government Code Section 85702.5, a city may, by ordinance or resolution impose a limit on campaign contributions that is different from what is set forth by the State.
On June 18, an ad hoc committee consisting of Gordo, Madison and Williams met with City Attorney Michele Bagneris and City Clerk Mark Jomsky to discuss the issue.
The meeting transpired after the City Council in its meeting on March 8 reached a consensus that campaign contribution limits should be determined locally.
According to Gordo, the ad hoc committee unanimously recommended the crafting of an ordinance that will place no limits on campaign contributions.
“The ad hoc discussed three alternatives and recommended unanimously alternative one that is to adopt an ordinance that provides that there will be no dollar limits on local campaign finance contributions which is consistent with what has existed historically in Pasadena prior to AB 571.”
“Taking alternative one creates an opportunity for us to continue the transparency and the sunshine as we had it and then also allows for people to raise money and challenge incumbents,” Gordo said.
Once the ordinance is approved by the City Council, it will replace AB571.
“We would get back to the campaign contribution practice in place before the State law was imposed on local jurisdictions,” Gordo said. “All campaign finance disclosure materials under our system are posted online and are available to the public.”
Explaining her vote, Rivas expressed concerns as to how large campaign contributions can be perceived by the public, adding that the public might think that officials will be indebted to donors who contributed large amounts and will prioritize their interests at the expense of the people.
“I wouldn’t support unlimited contributions. Personally, I think that the state limit balance is not so small,” Rivas also said.
During its meeting, the City Council has also decided to discuss further whether or not it will limit the campaign contributions by groups and individuals who do business with the city.
The move of the City Council to proceed with a local ordinance was made months ahead of the campaign period for the 2022 Primary Nominating Election, with City Council Districts 3, 5, and 7 scheduled to be active in the upcoming election cycle.
The official nomination period for the June 7 election opens on February 14.