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L.A. campaign finance overhaul scaled back by City Council members

Los Angeles lawmakers on Wednesday rejected an Ethics Commission proposal that would have limited the amount of money in local political races by shortening the campaign fundraising season.

The proposal, which was part of an extensive package of changes to campaign finance rules recommended by the commission, would have reduced the window during which candidates could raise money in citywide elections to 18 months from 24 months for citywide elections, and to 12 months from 18 months for City Council races.

In its instructions to city lawyers to draw up the new campaign finance ordinance, council members voted 13-0 to override the recommendations and instead keep the current fundraising windows in place. They also voted to lengthen the amount of time that a candidate can raise money after an election by three months.

The council asked for most of the proposals made by the Ethics Commission to be included in the ordinance, including a measure to reduce the role city commissioners and department heads can play in campaigns and a new rule that would allow donors to give to campaigns via text message.

Some of the most meaningful changes the council sought for the ordinance have to do with city matching funds. The proposed changes would raise the rate of matching funds in primary elections, making two public dollars -- up from one -- available as a match for every dollar from a qualified donor. In general elections, the city would give candidates four public dollars for every one dollar from a qualified donor.

The changes also include new incentives for candidates to raise money from inside, instead of outside, Los Angeles. 

Beginning in 2015, only money  raised within the city would only be eligible for matching funds. And candidates would only be eligible for the public money if they managed to collect donations from at least 200 people who live in the district they hope to represent.

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-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall

twitter.com/katelinthicum

 
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