|(April 11, 2017, 7:52 a.m.) -- A Long Beach City Council majority is quietly moving to take the first of two required votes today (April 11) that would let LB Councilmembers, the Mayor and other citywide electeds use sums from their "officeholder accounts" (tripled by Council action in 2015 on grounds it would let electeds better support neighborhood and community events) to transfer, loan or contribute "to any other candidate for local, State or federal elective office."
The proposed action would erase current LB's Municipal Code text that specifies "Officeholder funds may not be used as a transfer, loan or contribution to any other candidate for local, State or federal elective office." Erasing that text would allow LB incumbents to use "contributions" (solicited and accepted from friendly interests that may have interests in friendly Council outcomes) given to their "officeholder accounts" to assist candidates seeking other offices by replacing current LB restrictions (enacted by previous Councils) with less restrictive statutes and rules written by Sacramento.
The proposed change advanced through the Mayor-chosen "Elections Oversight Committee" (Mar. 14) and last week's Council meeting (April 4) using a non-transparent agenda titles and without explanatory written materials.
The March 14 meeting of the Council's "Elections Oversight Committee" (chair Pearce, vice chair Andrews, member Supernaw) showed the public an agenda title for an item to item as "request City Manager to study the feasibility of aligning candidate officeholder accounts to those of state/FPPC regulations" and provided the public with no written explanatory materials. That produced a 2-1 vote (Supernaw dissenting) to send the item to the City Council.
On April 4, the item was (again) agendized as "request City Manager to study the feasibility of aligning councilmember and other elected officials officeholder accounts to those of state/FPPC regulations" but Councilwoman Pearce made a motion (seconded by Gonzalez) to request the City Attorney to go further in actually drafting new ordinance text for Council enactment (no "study" of the action's "feasibility.")
When Councilman Supernaw indicated he was under the impression that Council vote would simply request a report, Mayor Garcia corrected him...and said Councilwoman Price had actually moved to direct the City Attorney to draft an ordinance to enact the ordinance change. City Attorney Charles Parkin replied that Pearce's motion had indeed directed his office to draft ordinance text for coming Council enactment [in two votes, now coming April 11 and 18.] Supernaw thanked them for the clarification and said nothing further. Neither did any other Councilmembers.
The Pearce-Gonzalez April 4 Council motion carried on a 6-1 vote, with Supernaw dissenting, Price exiting the Council Chamber prior to the item, and Andrews absent for the entire meeting.
In early 2015, a Council majority (5-3, Austin, Price, Mungo dissenting, 4th dist. vacant) voted to triple allowable totals LB electeds could annually amass in their "officeholder accounts" to reach $30,000 per Councilmember and $75,000 for citywide electeds (including the Mayor.) (LBREPORT.com editorially criticized the Council action at the time as fattening de facto "slush funds" that LB incumbents can dole out to friendly, politically-useful, constituencies.) To fend off criticism at the time, some Council incumbents portrayed their action as allowing them to collect more money they could use to assist community groups and neighborhood events and stressed they weren't changing the long-standing LB prohibition against giving officeholder sums to political candidates themselves.
The proposed change now coming to the Council for two enacting votes (April 11 and 18) would in fact allow LB elected incumbents to give "officeholder account" sums to candidates seeking local, state or federal elective offices.
In 1994, at the urging of then-progressives (including then-2nd dist. Councilman Alan Lowenthal), the Council put on the ballot, and LB voters overwhelming enacted a LB Campaign Reform Act, which adopted tougher requirements than minimal state law. The LB Campaign Reform Act stated in its Findings and Declarations:
"Officeholders are responding to high campaign costs by raising large amounts of money in off-election years. This fund-raising distracts them from important public matters, encourages contributions which may have a corrupting influence and gives incumbents an overwhelming and patently unfair fund-raising advantage over potential challengers.
...The integrity of the governmental process, the competitiveness of campaigns and public confidence in local officials are all diminishing." [LB Muni Code section 2.01.120 (E)]
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