The trailer for the hit film “American Beauty” kept flashing different sweet scenes, then asking the viewer to “look closer” because things were not really what they seemed. I am asking Malibu to “look closer” at the newly amended Campaign Finance Ordinance. I have challenged the constitutionality of the $100 contribution limit and asked the City Council to choose a legally defensible limit, such as $500, which has been in effect in all Malibu city elections except the last one.
Our Interim City Attorney, Mr. Terzian, has twice publicly told the council that he thought the $100 limit was low. I’m challenging this limit now, before a developer challenges it and a court decision leaves us with an unlimited contribution limit. Think about the prospect of the Malibu Bay Co. being able to make unlimited contributions.
Suddenly certain candidates are jumping on the “I pledge to take only $100 no matter what” bandwagon. This is political sleight of hand. A candidate can lend their own campaign unlimited funds and then forgive the debt. We are all smart enough to realize what mischief can be made by lump sums coming out of a candidate’s personal accounts with no names or faces to appear on campaign reports. Essentially, candidates have no real contribution limits other than how well-heeled they are or what money can be funneled into their personal accounts. A hidden support base can have a fund-raiser after the election is over to retire the debt and then who knows or cares. (Remember, Malibuites — it happened in our very first city election!)
From a practical economic standpoint, it makes no sense to have had a $500 limit for four elections and then reduce it by 80 percent, while the cost, in the upcoming election, of newspaper ads, printing and postage will each have risen between 30 percent to 35 percent in the same time frame. The $500 of 1992 would now be worth $325. (I called local papers, two printers and the bulk mail division of the Post Office.)
The dimmest bulb running for City Council knows that embracing Slow Growth and protection of Malibu’s lifestyle are the keys to winning. They just have to proclaim it. Smile, take the photo with the cute kids and the horse — must be a real Malibu protector, right? “Look closer,” Malibu. Even candidates’ closest supporters don’t know their true voting records or real agendas many times. It doesn’t cost much to say, “Hey, vote for me, I’m for slow growth and I promise a playing field in every pot.” To have an informed electorate requires more effort and effective voter education — and that costs money.
In addition, the new Campaign Finance Ordinance is in direct opposition, in key areas, to the California state’s campaign finance ordinance. Essentially, if you are complying with the city’s ordinance, you will be in violation of the state’s. Given all the outside legal consultants Malibu has used, I am confounded that there was never a consultation with a political legal expert before this ordinance was adopted. “Look closer” City Council, before every single candidate winds up in a nightmare of reporting with no way to satisfy both city and state, other than the shady and intensive prospect of “two sets of books.”