Friday, September 24, 2010

Election Reform: Increased Accountability and Responsiveness for Voter-Owned Elections

Elected officials have to spend too much time fundraising and not enough time doing what we elect them to do. We have to strengthen Los Angeles' public financing system so that special interests don't have so much control of our elections. Without taking one extra dime from the General Fund beyond funds already dedicated, we can remove the cap on the campaign finance Trust Fund and update the Charter to allow the City to move to a stronger campaign finance system and to increase penalties on those who break the law.

  • We need to restore trust and integrity to our City government. City officials should be accountable to voters, not special interests. We need to create a more robust campaign finance system that allows candidates to run without having to chase special interest money.
  • Politicians spend a significant amount of their time in office fundraising, time that could be spent working on issues of importance to the City.
  • Voters passed a public matching funds system by approving and funding Proposition H in 1990 to help restore public trust in governmental and electoral institutions. Updates are needed to increase the number of candidates who participate and make them more accountable to the voters.
  • LA City has a Trust Fund set up by the voters to support a public matching funds system. By removing the cap on the Matching Funds Program Trust Fund, which is currently set at $12 million, we will be able to make sure that all already-allocated funds are available and to expand the system when more funds become available.
  • Modify the charter to allow candidates to receive immediate public grants once they've qualified rather than have to raise big money to get matching funds.
  • Increase maximum penalties for any person who makes illegal contributions or expenditures to five times the amount of the unlawful contributions or expenditures (the current maximum is three times).
  • Removing the Trust Fund cap will not increase the funds allocated from the overall City budget, as the annual appropriation is already defined by the City Charter in Article IV, Sec. 471, c, 1.
  • More candidates will use the system, rather than raising unlimited funds from special interests, if they know that the Trust Fund has enough funds and they can get immediate grants to run serious campaigns.
  • Increasing the penalties for all candidates and contributors who break the law will encourage compliance.
  • LA City could gradually move to a full Voter-Owned Elections system over time to end the dominance of special interest money in city politics.