Wednesday, August 8, 2001
Padilla Recommends Against Overriding Hahn’s Campaign Finance Veto
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
The prospects for overriding Mayor James Hahn’s veto of a city campaign finance reform measure dimmed considerably yesterday when City Council President Alex Padilla recommended letting Hahn’s action stand.
Sitting alone as the council’s Rules and Elections Committee, Padilla said the new mayor had some good points in urging that the council amend the city’s matching funds program only after a comprehensive analysis of the unique issues that arose in the just-completed election cycle.
“Clearly for us it’s important to look at the 2001 elections,” Padilla said. The matter was sent back to the full council, which has until Aug. 17 to act.
Hahn on July 9 vetoed a measure that would have narrowed the period during which candidates for city office can raise money. The proposal also would have stepped up matching funds for candidates who agree to limit their overall spending and participate in debates.
The mayor said he wanted to be sure that any changes to the city’s campaign finance reform program take into account the unprecedented fundraising and spending this year by political parties and the explosion in campaigning by independent groups not officially sanctioned by the candidates.
Officials close to Padilla and the council said it was clear the council did not want to do battle with Hahn on the issue by attempting an override. The outcome was in little doubt after Padilla, a close Hahn ally, last month simultaneously sent the veto to the Rules and Elections Committee and appointed himself the panel’s chair.
City Ethics Commission officials, who began working on the proposals in October 1999, took the move philosophically. Executive Director LeeAnn Pelham said she expected the commission to complete a review of the 2001 elections by October and to forward an updated package of campaign finance reform measures to the council by the end of the year.
Commission President Miriam Krinsky said she was disappointed that the reforms approved by the council now will not be in place in time to affect special elections later this year to fill vacancies in two council districts, but she said she supported Hahn’s quest for full review of the 2001 elections.
“Our plan all along has been to grapple with the issues and challenges that have come to light because of the most recent election,” Krinsky said.
The commission’s recommendations, approved by the council in principle in February, were based in large part on lessons learned from the 1993 and 1997 elections in which wealthy candidates like Richard Riordan spent lavishly from their personal funds to run their campaigns.
But by the time the council sent the measures to the city attorney for final language, this year’s campaigns already were under way and showed the impact of an entirely new set of issues. Under Proposition 34, a state ballot initiative passed last year, political parties, unions and other groups for the first time could spend without limit to support candidates as long as they focused on their own members.
The turn of events was a sharp threat to Hahn, who was trying to keep pace with Antonio Villaraigosa— endorsed by the Democratic Party—and Steve Soboroff—endorsed by the Republicans.
The city responded with emergency ordinances that the state Fair Political Practices Commission asserts are without effect.
In a letter yesterday to the Rules and Elections Committee, Hahn said the Proposition 34 situation shows the need for more comprehensive study of reform measures.
“Such a review will assure that City ordinances are integrated with state law and fills any gaps which may be identified,” Hahn wrote.
He called on the committee to convene a joint session with the council’s Intergovernmental Relations panel and invite candidates to discus their experiences and perspectives.
Pelham, the Ethics Commission director, said her panel plans to participate in a symposium in October with the Annenberg School for Communication at USC to bring in an even broader spectrum of opinion and brainstorming to address the new campaign finance landscape.
Although an override of the veto now appears unlikely, the council has until Aug. 17 to act.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company