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City Council moves toward banning campaign money from city contractors; unions and developers would be exempt

October 26, 2010 |  2:26 pm

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to draft a measure for the March 8 ballot that would prohibit companies that bid on city contracts from giving campaign donations to city candidates.

Companies that ignore the ban would be barred from receiving a city contract for one to four years, depending on the number of violations, according to officials preparing the ballot language.

Council President Eric Garcetti, who authored the proposal, said the measure would begin to eradicate the perception that campaign contributions influence decisions at City Hall. But Councilman Tony Cardenas said he fears that the proposal, if approved by voters, would tip the scales toward wealthy candidates who have the power to write their own campaigns huge checks.

“The U.S. Supreme Court is likely never going to say that a rich individual cannot use their own money for their own campaign,” said Cardenas, who nevertheless voted to draft the measure.

The ballot proposal would not apply to real estate developers, who make up one of the most powerful special interests at City Hall. In addition, it would not cover public employee unions, who negotiate employment contracts but are not required to bid on them.

The union loophole has drawn fire from a group that represents City Hall lobbyists. “Real ethics reform can only occur when there are no exceptions or exemptions to the rules,” said lobbyist Harvey Englander, in a statement sent out earlier this month by the Los Angeles Lobbying Assn.

The council still must take a vote to put the contractor contribution ban on the ballot.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall