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Follow the Money: Political Contributions From City Contractors, Measure H

The city's two major newspapers spit on this "pay for play" measure. What do you think?

Measure H is confusing.

It often gets confusing when you try to follow the money.

Designed to control political campaign contributions from bidders for city contracts and limit the rampant pay-for-play environment of campaign fundraising, Measure H confused the heck out of the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.

He wrote the Financial Impact Statement printed in the hundreds of thousands of sample ballot booklets distributed throughout the city.

But he misunderstood part of Measure H, and he got his analysis wrong.  He realized that too late. The booklets had been printed and mailed. Meanwhile, the sober heads on the editorial pages of the Los Angeles Times and the Daily News put the measure under their respective microscopes.  And their recommendations to voters: The Times said vote yes. The Daily News said vote no.

What?

So, after unraveling, here’s what Measure H proposes to do:

  • Bidders on city contracts worth $100,000 or more would be banned from contributing to Los Angeles political campaigns. But the measure would have no impact on contractors urging their employees to make individual contributions, nor would it curb political action committees and other groups independent from a campaign to spend money in support of a candidate. In fact, there’s a “Yes on Measure H” group, sponsored by Californians for Fair Elections, claiming to be a coalition of small-business owners, nurses and government reform advocates. They have raised $19,736 and spent $16,203 as of the latest filing period. And it has been reported that all the independent expenditures citywide have already totaled half a million dollars this year.
  • As the current law exists, the city must put $3 million annually into a campaign finance trust fund with a cap of $12 million. The fund provides public money to candidates so they aren’t backed into that pay-for-play corner by accepting special-interest contributions. Measure H pops that cap and gives the City Council the power to adjust the contribution. In case of a fiscal emergency, the payment could be cut or even suspended. However, at the same time a higher limit could make it possible for every candidate to receive public funding.

Should contractors be prohibited from making campaign contributions?

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