Friday, July 13, 2001
Hahn Vetoes Campaign Reform Measure, Calls for ‘Comprehensive Approach’
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Mayor Jim Hahn has vetoed an adjustment to the city’s campaign matching fund program, saying further study is needed before the city gives more taxpayer money to candidates.
In a message accompanying his July 9 veto—his first since taking office this month—Hahn called for a more “comprehensive approach” to improving the city’s campaign finance laws that takes into account problems raised by the passage last year of Proposition 34.
“This veto is intended as a first step toward improving the City’s campaign finance system…,” Hahn said in his letter.
Ethics Commission Executive Director LeeAnn Pelham criticized the action.
“We are disappointed that the new Mayor, himself a former matching fund participant, chose not to support this package of enhancements to the City’s comprehensive set of reforms,” Pelham said in a statement.
The proposal approved by the commission and passed by the City Council on June 22 would have increased the city’s current dollar-for-dollar matching funds for candidates to two-to-one, and it would have narrowed the period in which candidates could begin fundraising.
The doubling of matching funds would not actually have increased the city money that most candidates would have received. A $100,000 ceiling would have remained in effect for council candidates, and a $667,000 maximum would remain in place for mayoral candidates.
The program also is limited by the city charter to a monies funded in trust each year for the program. The money has never run out, but if it does, it is not supplemented and candidates must do without it.
The two-to-one match would simply have assured that the full amount of matching funds available to candidates would have been earned earlier in the campaign, leaving the final months of the campaign—according to the proposal’s supporters—for more discussion of issues and less fund raising.
Some candidates would have taken in more money, since the ceilings are lifted when a candidate’s opponent who opts out of matching funds exceeds a voluntary spending cap.
The Ethics Commission argued that the changes would help even the playing field by eliminated some of the fund-raising advantages enjoyed by incumbents.
The Ethics Commission began discussing the reforms publicly after the 1999 council elections. Members believed the changes were so important that some advocated sending them to the council after fund raising already had begun for the 2001 elections.
In the end, they decided to hold off, believing it was improper to change city law in the middle of an election cycle.
But this year, the city already was inbetween the primary and the general election when it adopted the Ethics Commission recommendations—with the strong support of Hahn—that would reinstitute reporting requirements lifted by Proposition 34.
The council passed that measure, which was signed into law in then-Mayor Richard Riordan’s absence.
The council is due on Tuesday to vote on whether to make that law permanent. It’s not yet clear whether Hahn would sign it, but spokesman Matt Middlebrook said yesterday that the mayor wanted a comprehensive package that coordinates the city’s approach with Proposition 34.
“There’s clearly some work to be done,” Middlebrook said. “I would expect us to make some kind of proposal to the commission or the City Council members.”
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company