Effort to Curb Fundraising Gets Attention
Mayor says he might sign measure on city panelists if it is OKd by the council.
More than six years after a proposal to ban fundraising by
Los Angeles city commissioners collapsed before an
unsympathetic City Council, those pushing change appear to
be gaining momentum in their efforts to limit the influence
of money in City Hall.
In the last week, Deputy Mayor Troy Edwards, who was Mayor
James K. Hahn's campaign finance director, was called to
testify before a grand jury investigating conflicts of
interest in airport contracting.
Two days later, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley
called on Hahn to implement new fundraising limits.
And on Friday, the mayor, who has resisted the call for a
ban on commissioner fundraising, gave perhaps the clearest
indication yet that the political winds may be
Before a lunch with San Fernando Valley business leaders,
Hahn said for the first time that he might sign a ban on
fundraising by city commissioners. "If the council makes
that decision, after careful consideration of the issue, I
don't see why I would disagree," Hahn said, although he
said he was not convinced that the council would support
To be sure, the years-long debate over how to prevent
conflicts of interest in city contracting and to limit the
influence of campaign fundraising in city business is far
Advocates of tougher ethics laws have long complained that
allowing city commissioners to solicit campaign
contributions presents an appearance of impropriety and can
corrupt the contracting process. But the City Council
shelved a proposal to ban the practice in 1997.Most city
commissioners are part-time, unpaid appointees who oversee
the work of city departments. But those at so-called
proprietary commissions â€" which oversee the
airport, the port and the Department of Water and Power
â€" control millions of dollars in contracts.
Some of the commissioners have raised thousands of dollars
for the mayor.
Still, many City Council members â€" including
Council President Alex Padilla â€" are advising
caution before Los Angeles adopts any broad new
restrictions on the fundraising process.
And Hahn on Friday reemphasized the need to assess whether
fundraising by city commissioners was truly a problem.
"Some people are saying there is and some people are saying
there isn't. We are just evaluating it right now."
The mayor noted that current regulations prohibit city
commissioners from soliciting contributions from donors who
have had business before their commissions in the previous
Hahn said he did not think people who volunteer their time
to help the city as commissioners should lose the right to
support candidates for political office.
"I don't know why that one class of people suddenly can't
be involved in city commissions, simply because they want
to be part of the political process," Hahn said.
The mayor said his preference continued to be a requirement
that commissioners simply disclose their fundraising.
But Hahn and his council allies are under increasing
pressure to support reform.
Cooley said Thursday that fundraising by commissioners was
the core of the problem of influence peddling in Los
Angeles city government and called on the mayor to act
unilaterally to ban such fundraising.
Earlier in the week, City Controller Laura Chick warned
that she might withdraw her endorsement of Hahn's
reelection if he continued to oppose the prohibition on
political fundraising by city commissioners.
"I cannot endorse someone and stand by their side if they
are not doing the right thing," said Chick, who has not
ruled out a run for mayor.
And City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, though he has not taken a
position on the specific reform proposal being debated by
the council, has previously expressed support for
regulations that would eliminate conflicts of interest in
"The momentum is with us," Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said
Friday, days after she succeeded in getting a council
committee to direct the city attorney's office to draft an
ordinance that would ban members of city commissions from
fundraising for local elected officials.
The council is probably months away from a final decision
about new regulations, but the Ethics Commission will
consider the ban Feb. 10.
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