Happy New Year! I entered 2017 in high spirits and with renewed vigor about the great progress we're making in Los Angeles and what this new year holds. I'm thrilled about the ongoing work we're doing to improve our neighborhoods, tackle our city's challenges, and bring greater resources and services to the community. Together, we can do the hard work needed to cultivate a community that promotes diversity and supports Angelenos from all walks of life.
Throughout my career as a litigator, former ethics commissioner, and public servant, it's been my utmost priority to bring greater transparency, fairness and public trust to government. Now, more than ever, it's important for us to reinforce those tenets and restore faith in the way our city works.
That's why I partnered with Councilmembers David Ryu, Joe Buscaino and Paul Koretz to introduce two motions that attempt to reform campaign finance practices in the City of LA. One seeks to ban donations from developers, and the other seeks to strengthen the public financing of campaigns.
Right now, there is a lot of concern about development in our city. You read about it in the news and hear about it at neighborhood meetings. Much development doesn't have anything to do with political decisions, but is instead governed by city and state laws. However, some decisions are discretionary and, in those cases, the public needs to feel confident that their representatives have their best interests at heart when making decisions on projects. But there is a perception that the public's voice at City Hall is not equal to that of people with significant amounts of money who are contributing to the political process. That perception alone damages our democratic institutions, which is why I want to erase it, along with the threat of any other real or perceived conflicts of interest for legislators where development is concerned.
The motions we put forward seek to address those issues by taking the following steps:
- Banning contributions to city elected officials and candidates for city office from developers and their principals with development projects currently or recently before the city;
- Finding an adequate and accurate definition for the term "developer" to ensure as wide a net as possible is cast, in addition to exploring whether contractors and subcontractors on development projects requiring discretionary council approval should be included in this ban;
- Requiring campaign committees to provide additional reporting on non-individual entity contributors, including a category that denotes contributions derived from developers and their principals;
- Requiring a signed affidavit that makes the contributor positively affirm, under penalty of perjury, that the contributions are being made by that person, that the contributor is not being reimbursed, and that the contributor does not have any open applications for development projects before the city or any local or citywide planning commission, in addition to any other city ethics laws that should be included in the affidavit;
- Requests a report on the costs and feasibility of increasing the size of enforcement staff at the Ethics Commission to increase the number of inspections and audits that can be carried out to reduce the incidences of campaign finance fraud and improve transparency.
As elected officials, we depend on the people who elected us to trust that we'll do the right thing for our communities. But, when it comes to campaign finance, the system we have in place today is failing us all. The reform ideas we're proposing are aimed at upending these failures by getting developer money out of City Hall and creating a more thoughtful, transparent and fair atmosphere.