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Plan to lift L.A. campaign giving caps held up amid complaints

February 2, 2012 |  1:20 pm

The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission postponed a decision Thursday on whether to raise the campaign contribution limits for candidates for city office after receiving two complaints that the proposal had not been fully vetted.

The five-member panel scheduled a meeting for Feb. 23 on a proposal to increase limits on what individual donors can give to candidates. The maximum for citywide candidates -– mayor, city attorney, city controller -– would go from $1,000 per donor per election cycle to $2,200. The limit for City Council candidates would be raised from $500 to $1,100.

Commission staffers said the changes are needed to account for inflation since 1985, when the caps were adopted. But Wayne Williams, a board member with the California Clean Money campaign, said the plan would give an unfair advantage to incumbents and to those who can easily tap wealthy donors.

George Rheault, a sometime critic of the Ethics Commission, said more time for public input on the plan is needed. “Either you’re not engaging the public or the public simply believes you’re part of the problem,” he told the panel.

Commissioner Valerie Vanaman defended the agency, saying it had made efforts to reach out to groups such as Common Cause. But Commissioner Marlene Canter said she was not prepared to vote on the proposal without receiving more feedback.

Even if the panel votes on Feb. 23, a final decision would not occur until later this year. The proposal marks the first time in 27 years that the commission has attempted to lift the contribution limits.


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall