Term limits supporters are crying foul over a donation that West Hollywood City Councilmember Abbe Land made to the group that opposes term limits.
According to No on Measure C financial statements the group has received a $1,000 donation from the “Abbe Land for West Hollywood City Council 2011” account.
“This is more than just another case of incumbents behaving badly — this may be a violation of state and city law,” said Scott Schmidt, a consultant for the Yes on C campaign.
In his allegation of wrongdoing, Schmidt referred to a West Hollywood city ordinance 2.76.050 that governs how candidates may use unspent campaign donations. That ordinance makes reference to a state statute that says “Campaign funds may be used to make donations or loans to bona fide charitable, educational, civic, religious, or similar tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations, where no substantial part of the proceeds will have a material financial effect on the candidate … and where the donation or loan bears a reasonable relation to a political, legislative, or governmental purpose.”
However, city attorney Mike Jenkins said the donation is legal.
“I have determined that the contribution is perfectly OK,” said Jenkins during a phone interview.
Once an election campaign is finished and all campaign expenses are paid off, Jenkins explained, the West Hollywood municipal code allows the campaign to maintain an “officeholder” account with up to $10,000. Money in officeholder accounts is typically used to send out newsletters, announcements, etc.
The city’s municipal code 2.76.060 states that the money in officeholder accounts “shall not be used or expended in connection with an election of the city councilmember or any other person for any elected office.”
Making donations to ballot measures, like Measure C, is not mentioned in the city code.
However, Jenkins said that the California government code 89519.b.5 does expressly permit donations to ballot measures.
Thus, state law allows Land’s officeholder account to donate to the No on Measure C campaign.
Land has made no secret that she opposes term limits, even speaking against it from the dais.
“I feel very strongly that term limits is not a good thing for West Hollywood,” Land said in a telephone interview. “It will hurt the future of the city. I’m glad to know my contribution is legal.”
Land said that if Jenkins had determined that her contribution was illegal, she would have asked for her check back.
Calls to No on Measure C officials for comment were not returned.
While Land may have given $1,000 to the “No campaign,” city council candidate Steve Martin’s campaign has given $300 to the “Yes campaign.”
“The municipal codes govern how surplus campaign funds after the election are used,” said Schmidt. “A current campaign can donate to any other campaign if it wants and we welcome Steve’s support.”
Measure C, which is on the March ballot, would limit West Hollywood city council members to three four-year terms of office. The measure is not retroactive, meaning that all of the current council members would be allowed 12 more years, if the voters keep putting them back in office.
On the West Hollywood city council, John Heilman has served for 28 years, Land has served for 21 years, Jeff Prang has served for 16 years, John Duran has served for 12 years and John D’Amico has served for 2 years.
In addition to Land’s $1,000 donation, the No on Measure C campaign has received three other donations:
Examining the financial statements on the Yes on Measure C campaign confirms that movement is a truly grassroots effort. That campaign has raised $11,771 to date from 50 donors, 45 of whom are individuals making donations between $25 and $500.
Four businesses or groups have donated to the Yes on Measure C campaign so far: