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City Council to Discuss Ordinance Limiting Local Campaign Contributions

Published on Monday, August 16, 2021 | 5:00 am

Should local political campaign contributions be limited?

That’s a question the City Council will attempt to answer Monday when members discuss an ordinance that would set limits on campaign contributions. 

According to Assembly Bill 571, as of Jan. 1, 2021, state campaign contribution limits apply to city and county candidates when the city or county has not enacted a contribution limit on such candidates.

The default limit for contributions to city and county candidates subject to AB 571 for 2021-22 is set at $4,900 per individual during an election.

Currently, Pasadena has no limit on campaign funding. 

In some contested City Council races, candidates have raised well over $100,000, and $250,000 in mayoral contests. 

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

The ad hoc committee decided that a local ordinance be considered by the full City Council regarding campaign finance limits for the City Council. 

The three options considered, according to a staff report included with Monday’s City Council agenda, are:

  • 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.
  • An ordinance that sets local campaign finance limits that are different from state limits. This would necessitate a discussion on what limits to set, how such limits would be enforced, any adjustments that might occur over time (such as Consumer Price Index increases), and any unintended consequences created by campaign contribution limits such as an increase to independent expenditures, which may result in less disclosure and reduced transparency regarding the source of political contributions.
  •  Default to state limits for contributions for city candidates as set by AB 571, which is currently $4,900 per election from a single source.

Currently, AB 571 is in effect since the council has not enacted a local ordinance. 

The Fair Political Practices Commission is not responsible for the administration or enforcement of a contribution limit. 

If the City Council were to set a dollar limit different from the state limit, it would be the responsibility of the city to enforce violations of local contribution limits.

City Council Districts 3, 5, and 7 are scheduled to be contested in the upcoming election cycle. 

The official nomination period for the June 7 election opens on Feb. 14.

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