Wednesday, July 18, 2001
City Council Extends Campaign Disclosure Laws to Special Elections
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
The same emergency disclosure laws the City Council passed two months ago for the city’s June elections would apply to the Sept. 11 special balloting to fill the Fourth District City Council vacancy under an ordinance passed by the council yesterday.
On a unanimous vote, the council sent the campaign finance disclosure ordinance to Mayor James Hahn for signature. The measure would also apply to the likely Oct. 23 runoff, and to special elections to fill the Second District seat being vacated in October by Councilman Joel Wachs.
The law requires political parties and other groups to report their fund raising and spending in support of city candidates, even when the money is being used just to communicate with the groups’ own members.
The council had considered making the disclosure law permanent, but opted instead to pass special legislation just for the upcoming special elections.
The action continues to put the city at odds with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which earlier this month issued a formal opinion finding the laws were preempted by the “member communications” provisions of Proposition 34.
That initiative was approved by California voters in November and allows political parties to keep their fund raising and spending for member communications under wraps until after city elections are over. Other groups, such as labor unions, never have to reveal how much they spend to tell their members how to vote.
Legislators are currently working on a “clean-up” bill, called Senate Bill 34, that in its present form would restore timely disclosure for political parties but not other groups.
The final battle between the city and FPPC interpretations of Proposition 34 and its reach into local elections may have to come in court.
Calls to Hahn’s office were not returned. It is unknown whether the mayor, who last week vetoed a city campaign finance reform measure, would sign the latest council action.
The vetoed proposal would have powered up the city’s matching funds program by assuring that available city funding was locked up earlier in the campaign. In his veto message Hahn said he wanted a more comprehensive set of campaign reform laws, especially in view of the challenges posed by Proposition 34.
But that does not mean Hahn is hostile to the disclosure measure. Hahn was one of the chief proponents during his recent campaign of city action to close what he called a loophole opened up by the state member communications exception.
Hahn’s opponent, Antonio Villaraigosa, was the beneficiary of thousands of dollars of Democratic Party spending to urge Los Angeles Democrats to vote for him.
As for the veto, the council took up a possible override yesterday but instead sent the matter to its Rules and Elections Committee, after council president Alex Padilla named himself the panel’s chairman.
Padilla promised he would have the matter back to the council floor by Aug. 17, the deadline for an override.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company