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Locals Want Campaign Finance Limits on Charter Reform

Published on Thursday, February 8, 2024 | 5:42 am

Several local residents are calling on the Charter Study Group to make a recommendation to the City Council for campaign finance limits.

The group is studying potential recommendations to the City Council for City Charter reform.

The City Charter serves as the City’s constitution. After years of unlimited finance limits, the City was forced to set a maximum of $5,900 per individual donation in 2021 due to a state law that sets the limit.

But local residents say that even $5,900 is too high.

“The rules around campaign finance transparency and campaign finance limits are very important to me as a business owner and an employer in Pasadena,” according to Dr. Andrea Davis.

“I am writing to you to strongly suggest you create campaign contribution limits of $1,000 for municipal elections in the City of Pasadena.

The item came before the City Council in 2021. At that time the City Council instructed City Attorney Michelle Bagneris to create an ordinance that would maintain unlimited campaign finance funding.

Only Jess Rivas opposed the item, which went to the Legislative Policy Committee and never came back to the City Council.

Several residents claimed that campaign limits would remove corruption from local politics.

However, there has been no investigation or conviction of corruption against local Councilmembers.

Councilmembers also expressed concern over independent expenditures.

An independent expenditure supports the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate but is not made in coordination with any candidate or campaign.

The money can be used for ads, robocalls, mailers, yard signs, and other communications giving a candidate wide visibility.

To make matters worse, independent expenditures are harder to track than campaign contributions.

A $35,000 independent expenditure was filed by the California Apartment Association Housing Solutions Committee opposing Victor Gordo in his first campaign for Mayor.

Independent expenditures are designed to be independent from the candidate’s campaign and can be made without the campaign’s knowledge

Then-Mayor Terry Tornek said he wasn’t aware of the expenditure until Gordo asked him about it.

District 4 Councilmember Gene Masuda said he was not aware of an independent expenditure filed by the Pasadena Police Officers Association in the 2020 race.

“Democratic principles demand term limits and campaign finance limits,” said Melissa Michelson.

The City of Alhambra recently enacted $250/donation limits—seventy percent of the people that voters approved of the limit.

Mehta Stein, who spoke to the City Council in 2021, said that the average donation for cities the size of Pasadena is $1,000. Many cities have limits of $250.

“I would like to request that the Charter require a $1,000 limit on campaign contributions to municipal candidates,” said Dr. Denise Robb.

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