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Political Gumbo: Is the Money Corrupt or the Politician? 

Published on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 | 10:06 am
 

This week’s bowl of gumbo also serves as food for thought.

Yes, I can see an argument for limiting campaign donations, but I don’t believe campaign limits will stop corruption. 

Several local residents cited L.A.’s campaign contribution limits as a model for Pasadena during Monday’s City Council meeting. 

As one caller said Monday night, “In Los Angeles, the limit is $800 and there are way more people there.”

Maybe the caller should have looked more closely at what’s going on in the City of Angels.

L.A. City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, a former county supervisor, is under indictment on corruption charges.  

Ridley-Thomas is accused of conspiring with a former dean of USC’s School of Social Work to steer county money to the university in return for admission of his son into graduate school with full tuition and a paid professorship. Among the 20-count indictment are charges of conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud.

Here’s another one: three years ago, the FBI raided the home and offices of Councilman Jose Huizar. The council suspended Huizar, barring him from exercising the powers of his office, hours after he was arrested. More indictments may be on the way. 

This is happening in a city where council members make at least $207,000 a year and cannot accept donations over $800,  

I am not claiming those politicians are guilty. The courts will decide that. But this I do know: a corrupt politician will take an envelope full of greenbacks no matter what the city’s campaign finance limits are.

Hell, ban campaign donations altogether every place and it won’t stop a  candidate hell bent on fleecing voters.  

Locally, incumbent City Councilmembers will have no problems maintaining their seats. While the $4,900 checks pour in to them the incumbents will be out knocking on doors and talking to voters, while their opponents struggle to find the money for mailers. 

It’s already damn near impossible to beat an incumbent in Pasadena. Campaign finance limits won’t make it any easier without term limits.

The answer here is the voters need to watch the money. If you did you would have known you were voting in an election with unlimited campaign financing. 

The donations are posted on the city’s website, and the city has done that for years.

In the last election, at least two current elected officials returned checks. Felicia Williams and Victor Gordo said no thanks to developers, and Gordo did not take money from the Pasadena Police Officers Association, PPOA.

On that same note, several councilmembers did receive money from the PPOA, and they still voted in favor of the Police Oversight Commission.

And, no, the candidate with the most money does not always win. 

If money won the race, the last two District 1 council members would have never been elected. 

Robin Salzer would have beaten Jacque Robinson, and Tyron Hampton would have never gained a political foothold. Hampton was massively outspent by Rueben Hueso in his first foray into local politics when he ran for school board. 

Hampton and Robinson, both local products, did the work and connected with local voters.

Money also did not dictate who Gordo or former Mayor Terry Tornek spoke with. Gordo spoke and walked with members of Black Lives Matter when they showed up at his house, and BLM didn’t have checks for him when they arrived.

Tornek and Gordo spoke at forums attended by rich and poor alike. So did Williams, Councilmember Gene Masuda and Councilmember Steve Madison. 

Ironically, not once did the issue of campaign finances come up at those forums.

Yes, you voted in the last election and it did not have campaign finance limits. 

The winning candidates knocked on every door in their districts, because that’s how you win elections in Pasadena. 

There is something else to consider: campaign finance reform will not just keep those nasty developers out. 

On a side note, some of the same callers that want to keep developers from donating money in local elections want to give the so-called corrupt developers the ability to build housing by right, with no questions asked on certain projects. 

That … doesn’t … add … up. 

Back on point.

Some of the progressives in town donate a lot of money to campaigns. At one point, just supporting police oversight got a candidate a $5,000 check. 

Based on the logic of the callers on Monday, that candidate would then be corrupt to vote in favor of oversight.

In the end, your vote is the best campaign finance limit. 

If you don’t like where the money is coming from, the best thing you can do is vote for somebody else.

Watch the money, no matter the limit and make an educated decision.  

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