Hahn's Donation Proposal Analyzed

*A study finds that his suggested limits on campaign contributions would have eliminated 11% to 21% of funds given in 2001-02.

By Patrick McGreevy and Noam N. Levey, Times Staff Writers

Mayor James K. Hahn's proposal to outlaw campaign contributions from contractors, lobbyists and developers with projects before the city would have eliminated 11% to 21% of the money donated to campaigns in 2001 and 2002, according to a Los Angeles Ethics Commission study released Thursday.

Some proponents of the mayor's proposal said the study showed that it would not have the devastating impact on elections that city Controller Laura Chick had predicted. She recently estimated that the idea would eliminate about half of the contributions to local political campaigns, having "the potential for shutting down local elections."

Some critics of the mayor's plan, however, said the study proved that the ban would make it harder for candidates to raise the money needed to get their message to voters in a city of 3.9 million people.

"It's an argument against the proposal," said Xandra Kayden, a UCLA political scientist who co-wrote the city's current ethics rules.

"Given the size of Los Angeles and its council districts, it's unrealistic to expect candidates to become known to voters unless they spend more money."

With federal and local prosecutors investigating whether city contracts have been tied to political contributions, Hahn proposed the new rules on Feb. 20.

In considering whether to adopt the mayor's proposal, the Ethics Commission asked its staff to estimate its impact on campaign contributions.

The staff determined that 3% of the $29.2 million contributed in 2000 and 2001 came from lobbyists and lobbyist firms.

They also sampled 383 contributions and determined that 13% of them were from contractors and land-use applicants with matters before the City Council. That estimate comes with a margin of error of 5%.

It also could be low, because the sampling did not include contributions from those with matters before the Harbor, Airports and Water and Power departments, said LeeAnn Pelham, executive director of the Ethics Commission.

Hahn said the estimates neither surprised him nor affected his thinking about the ban.

"I was trying to deal with the perception that donations were affecting decision-making," the mayor said.

The report will be taken up Tuesday by the Ethics Commission.

Ethics Commissioner Dale Bonner, who said he has not yet been convinced of the need for a ban, said the small percentage of contributions that would be affected "raises a question in my mind about whether it is a meaningful thing to do."


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