In early December, WEHOville asked West Hollywood residents what issues they wanted candidates in the upcoming City Council election to address. We received hundreds of responses and boiled them down to 13 key issues. We have asked each of the four candidates in the June 2 special City Council election to offer his or her positions on these issues. On each Monday through May 4 we will publish one or two of the questions and the candidates’ responses. On March 23, candidates addressed traffic issues. On March 30 candidates answered questions about parking. On April 6 they talked about pedestrian safety issues and the City Council deputy system. Today candidates discuss historic preservation and development issues, the fate of Plummer Park and the disparity between housing costs and income on the city’s Eastside. And on April 13 the candidates answered questions about historic preservation and development.
The majority of the money that funds City Council campaigns traditionally comes from out-of-town developers, billboard companies and city vendors. As a candidate, and later as a Council member, will you:
1.) Publicly set a limit on the amount of money you will take from any specific developer or billboard company, including in that limit money from members of that donor’s immediate family, co-workers, lawyers and lobbyists?
I would like to reform the whole system of financing our local elections. Stop the revolving door. Eliminate the influence of lobbyists by not allowing candidates to accept donations from lobbyists and city contractors. And set verified limit donations for any corporation, lawyers office or family to, say, $1,000 per entity. That means going back and raising the amount any single individual can give to the previous amount of $1,000. The City Council previously voted to limit individual donations to $500 while they did nothing to change the flow of dollars from contractors and lobbyists. This gives incumbents a large money advantage. It’s time to level the playing field.
Yes. Until the residents of this City can regain control of the development process from developers, the City Council must enact a five-year ban on contributions from developers who are seeking approvals from the City.
There is already a limit on how much money individuals or entities can donate to City Council races: $500.
The current limit for individual campaign donations is $500, which is actually half of what the limit used to be. I am supportive of these smaller campaign contribution limits, as they help ensure that no one individual can have such influence over the financial health of a campaign that it would “buy” someone’s vote. I have not taken any money from developers, and I will continue to raise my campaign funds from private individuals whose interest in this election is not another new apartment or condo structure, but rather, that West Hollywood finally gets a citizen-run Council instead of a developer-run one.
2.) Refuse to accept donations from a developer or billboard company that works around the campaign donation limit by donating to a so-called “independent campaign fund” that supports your candidacy?
If we raise the amount any individual can donate we can eliminate these independent campaign funds that favor a special interest.
Yes, I will.
The easy answer to this question is “yes.” The problem with the question is that often times a candidate does not know who is donating to an independent expenditure campaign until after the election. How can a candidate refuse to accept donations from a person who contributes to an independent expenditure campaign when the candidate doesn’t know who those individuals are until very late or after the election. In addition, the question assumes that only developers and billboard companies run independent expenditure campaigns. There are individual residents who have created independent expenditure campaigns. There are environmental groups who have independent expenditure campaigns as well as business organizations.
The question references independent expenditure committees (“I.E.s”), which by law cannot coordinate in any way with a campaign, and that includes not donating to a campaign. An I.E. can only work independently on behalf of (or against) a candidate, proposition, ballot measure, etc. That being said, I have not taken any developer money, whether they have given to any I.E.s or not. If elected, I will include campaign finance reform as part of a larger reform package to address this issue and other ethical problems we are currently facing in City Hall.
3.) Recuse yourself, if elected, from debating or voting on issues before the Council involving city vendors who have donated to your election campaign, as is the rule in Santa Monica?
Yes, I will. I will not solicit any contributions for companies that have business with, or that require approvals from the city.
We should explore adopting a policy like the one in Santa Monica.
Absolutely. I would also propose that if vendors or lobbyists are speaking before Council, Council members should be required to disclose the amount which was donated to their campaign before recusing themselves from the vote. The more transparency there is, the more trust we will build between residents and the Council.
4.) Press city government to require digital filing of campaign donations (now documented on written forms) so that they can more easily be viewed online and can be aggregated into one online database so residents can more easily see who the big donors are?
Yes, guaranteed item to place on agenda.
Absolutely. True transparency begins with easy access to campaign information. Residents should be able to see who all campaign contributors are before and during the election, not in paper statement filed months after the voting has occurred. I urge voters to look at what San Francisco has done to provide transparency and accountability. It can be done!
I believe we must go a step further and create laws that limit contributions directly from corporations to council campaign committees as they have done in San Francisco and other cities. While we have to deal with the awful Citizens United Supreme Court decision, if West Hollywood is truly going to be a progressive city, we must establish all lawful regulations to prevent corporate interests from manipulating our city and its elected officials.
Digital filing sounds like a good idea except it really works to the disadvantage of candidates who are not well funded who cannot afford to hire a professional treasurer. Campaign disclosure statements are put on line by the City Clerk’s office usually the same day they are filed so all information is readily available to the public.
Again, I would fully support any and all measures which would increase the amount of information available to the public regarding their elected officials. Digital filing of campaign donations is a common sense campaign finance reform that will build trust between residents and the Council by allowing real-time access to information about who and what interests are funding each candidate.