Council increases fundraising limit for elections

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It also decided to use an ethics consultant and commission to oversee next year’s campaign.

By Gracy Abbott / Special to The Malibu Times

Candidates in next year’s City Council election are going to be able to raise more money than was allowed in previous years. At Monday’s meeting, the City Council instructed City Attorney Christi Hogin to draft an ordinance increasing the amount of money a candidate can raise per contributor from $100 to $250. The council also voted to have an election monitor and ethics commission to oversee the 2006 election, which the city had during the 2004 campaign.

The campaign contribution limit has been controversial because there is no cap on independent expenditures contributed by private citizens or groups as long as they are not directly associated with the candidate’s campaign. Although increasing the amount of money a candidate can raise per contributor would not likely enable the person to compete with the large amount of money that can be spent through independent expenditures, the council members said it could even the playing field somewhat.

Not everybody attending the meeting was in agreement with the council’s decision. Former Planning Commissioner Richard Carrigan said he would have preferred the contribution limit remain at $100.

“I think it is very cool that a housekeeper and a billionaire can have the same impact on a political election,” Carrigan said.

Carrigan also spoke out against the hiring of an ethics consultant and the use of a commission to oversee the election, because of the perception that it favored the incumbents. In 2004, Xandra Kayden oversaw the election campaign. She, with the help of a commission, accepted complaints about ethical violations in campaign literature and newspapers ads. She wrote opinions about whether the candidates had committed ethical violations, but the candidates were not penalized regardless of her decision. During the campaign, accusations were made that Kayden and the commission’s decisions favored the incumbents.

Mayor Ken Kearsley had a different take on what happened in 2004. He said Kayden and her commission were a useful tool and spoke in favor of doing it again in 2006.

“I am in favor of a monitor and I am in favor of a commission that has no interest in this election,” Kearsley said. “What do you fear [by having a monitor]? Do you fear the truth?”

Hogin said the Santa Monica League of Women Voters, which says it is a nonpartisan political organization, would be a good source for an ethics commission. Councilmember Sharon Barovsky agreed with her, saying the league will be independent of the council and will be principled.

Also at that meeting, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich suggested each candidate be allowed to have a blog on the city’s Web site. Hogin said she believed that raised some legal issues, but she would research the idea before the next council meeting.

At the council’s Dec. 12 meeting, Hogin will propose language for the ordinance increasing the fundraising limit. She will also provide a proposed job description for a campaign monitor and further information on selecting an ethics commission.

Mayor Andy Stern and Barovsky are up for reelection in April. Neither has announced whether they will run, nor has anybody else thrown a hat into the ring.