' Follow the Money: Mayor Garcia, Vice Mayor Richardson Are First Two LB Incumbents To Use Their Contributor-Fueled "Officeholder" Accounts To Fund Elect/Re-Elect Campaigns Of Other Pols '

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Follow the Money: Mayor Garcia & Vice Mayor Richardson Become First Two LB Incumbents To Use Their Contributor-Fueled "Officeholder Accounts" To Fund Elect/Re-Elect Campaigns Of Other Pols

Richardson used his officeholder account to give money to help re-elect Council incumbents Gonzalez & Uranga + LB School Boardmember Kerr; Garcia used his officeholder account to help elect new L.A. Congressman and tried to elect new Signal Hill Councilman

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(Aug. 6, 2017. 8:55 a.m., add'l details added 3:30 p.m.) -- Those who gave money to the "officeholder accounts" of Mayor Robert Garcia and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, thinking it would allow the electeds to offset the costs of holding office and perhaps help present district events and neighborhood groups, now know (or should know) that Richardson used part of those sums to help re-elect two of his fellow LB Council incumbents and an incumbent LB School Boardmember and Garcia used part of the money to elect a new L.A. Congressman and tried to elect a new Signal Hill Councilmember.

Both men, who are seeking re-election in the April 2018 election cycle, have become the first two LB incumbents to exploit a controversial City Council majority-enacted change in LB law that now lets LB incumbents use their contributor-funded "officeholder accounts" to give money to election/re-election campaigns of other politicians.

[Scroll down for further.]

Records filed with the City Clerk's office show that Richardson used his officeholder account to give $250 each to the re-election campaigns of 1st dist. Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, 7th district Councilman Roberto Uranga and LB School Board member Megan Kerr, all on June 30, 2017 (the final day of the first half of 2017 reporting period.)

Garcia used his "officeholder account" to give $1,000 to elect Jimmy Gomez to Congress (a former L.A. area Assembly Dem) and gave $500 to elect Kier Jones to the Signal Hill City Council. Gomez was elected to Congress; Jones missed election to a Signal Hill Council seat by one vote.)

Both incumbents also disbursed officeholder account sums to a number of charitable, policy and political advocacy groups. [Links to complete documents below.]



The change was initiated in early 2017 by Garcia-picked Council "Elections Oversight Committee" Jeannine Pearce and enacted by Council majorities that included Richardson. In April 2017, amid considerable public criticism, Council majorities voted to change long-standing LB law to let LB elected incumbents use their contributor-funded "officeholder accounts" to support the election/re-election campaigns of candidates for other offices.

Prior to the 2017 Council action, LB electeds couldn't give sums to individual candidates but could use their officeholder accounts (funded with contributions from various persons and entities) to fund community events or charitable groups and/or give to political and issue advocacy group [all potentially helpful to the incumbents.]

Two years earlier in 2015, Garcia's previous pick to chair the "Elections and Oversight Committee," Lena Gonzalez, initiated and a Council majority (including Richardson, over dissents by Price, Mungo and Austin) changed LB law to tripled the amounts that incumbents can collect annually in their officeholder accounts.


However in early 2017, Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce (took office mid-July 2016), whom Mayor Garcia appointed to chair the Council's "Elections Oversight Committee," proposed changing LB law to let incumbents use their officeholder account sums to support candidates seeking election/re-election to other political offices. Council majorities then enacted the change (with Richardson's support on two votes (absent for a third.) [Further details in "Amnesia File" coverage below.]

Two years earlier in 2015, Council majorities (that included Richardson) voted to triple the amounts that incumbents could annually collect in their officeholder accounts. The action, over dissents by Price, Mungo and Austin, was proposed by then newly-elected Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez (Councilman/Vice Mayor Garcia's former field rep) to chair the Elections Oversight Committee. In response to criticism at that time, Council incumbents that supported the change argued it would allow them to collect more sums to fund district events, support neighborhood group activities and the like.



The 2015 vote enabled Councilmembers to collect $30,000 in officeholder contributions per year...and in the first half of 2017, Vice Mayor Richardson collected exactly $30,000 in officeholder account contributions. His officeholder account contributors during this period included Apt. Ass'n, CA Southern Cities, AES, BNSF Railway, CA Teamsters PAC, former Councilman Gary DeLong, Ensemble Investments, Grand Prix Ass'n of LB, Int'l Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC, Laborers In'tl Union of North America Local 1309 [leadership includes Josh LaFarga, controversial Planning Comm'n appointee approved 8-0 [Gonzalez recusal]), LB Area Chamber of Commerce, LB Police Officers Ass'n PAC, LB Firefighters Ass'n PAC, Oxbow Energy Solutions (operates coal/petroleum coke exporting facility in Port of LB), So Cal Pipe Trades Dist. 16 PAC, So Cal Dist. Council of Laborers PAC, Tesoro Companies, UFCW Local 324 PAC, UFCW Western States Council PAC, Unite Here Local 11 PAC.

In addition to giving sums to the re-election campaigns of Council incumbents Gonzalez and Uranga and to School Boardmember Kerr, Richardson used his officeholder account to give sums to the CA Conference for Equality and Justice ($450), National Council of Negro Women ($200), Participatory Budgeting Project ($300), Southern Christian Leadership Conference of So. Cal ($1,000), Speak Up Empowerment Foundation ($250) and the YMCA of Greater Long Beach ($1,000).

To view Richardson's full list of officeholder account contributions and expenditures in full, click here. To view the full list of his re-election campaign contributions click here.

In the first half of 2017, Mayor Garcia collected $5,525 in contributions to his officeholder account...and disbursed $32,842 in sums that he'd previously collected. His officeholder account's major contributors in the first half of 2017 consisted of mainly organized labor, including the LB Firefighters Ass'n ($1,000) and the Laborers Int'l Union of North America, Local 1309 ($1,000) [leadership includes Josh LaFarga, controversial Planning Comm'n appointee approved 8-0 [Gonzalez recusal]).

Garcia used his officeholder account to disburse sums to some charitable groups along with politically oriented groups [that can presumably help him] including the Yes We Can Democratic Club ($2,000), HonorPAC ($1,000). After collecting $1,000 for his officeholder account from the Apartment Association, CA Southern Cities in the latter half of 2016, Garcia disbursed $1,000 to Housing Long Beach (supports "just-cause eviction" ordinance, has signaled support for rent control) in the first half of 2017.

To view Garcia's "officeholder account" contributions in full, click here. These are separate from Garcia's re-election campaign contributions which totaled roughly $241,000.


Amnesia File

In 1994, pressed by then-Councilman Alan Lowenthal and a now vanished left-of-center group that helped elect him (Long Beach Area Citizens Involved/"LBACI"), the Long Beach City Council put a measure on the ballot that supporters titled the "Long Beach Campaign Reform Act." Among other things, it limited campaign contributions to candidate campaign committees for Long Beach elective offices. Its Findings and Declarations stated:

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

...B. To reduce the influence of large contributors with a specific financial stake in matters before the City Council, thus countering the perception that decisions are influenced more by the size of contributions than the best interests of the people of the City.

...D. To limit overall expenditures in campaigns, thereby reducing the pressure on candidates to raise large campaign war chests for defensive purposes, beyond the amount necessary to communicate reasonably with voters.

G. To eliminate fundraising except during an election cycle.

H. To reduce the excessive fundraising advantage of incumbents and thus encourage competition for elective office.

I. To allow candidates and officeholders to spend a lesser proportion of their time on fundraising and a greater proportion of their time dealing with issues of importance to their constituents.

J. To improve the disclosure of contribution sources in reasonable and effective ways.

K. To help restore public trust in local governmental and electoral institutions.

In June 1994, LB voters voted to approve the Campaign Reform Act. The public's vote didn't sit well with some Councilmembers and some in LB's establishment...and in 1995, the Council took voted action to enact an ordinance that allowed "officeholder accounts" to which Councilmembers, the Mayor and other citywide electeds could solicit and collect annual contributions from entities and individuals in an annual amount totaling up to $5,000. Officeholder accounts were something new. They weren't part of previous LB law and weren't part of LB's voter-enacted Campaign Reform Act.

The Council's action was opposed by a number of LBACI supporters. The late Jim Sturm called the officeholder accounts de facto "slush funds" that invite pay-to-play City Hall politics. Mr. Sturm and other LBACI members said "officeholder accounts" would let incumbents solicit and collect contributions from individuals and entities with interests in friendly Council outcomes outside of regular election campaign cycles. In addition, incumbents could tap their "officeholder accounts" to curry favor with various groups and constituencies by handing out sums for their events and causes (giving incumbents a monied advantage over challengers since groups receiving funds from an incumbent Councilmember would likely remember it at election time.)

These political considerations were lost on budget-focused City Auditor Laura Doud, who recommended in 2007 that the Council increase the annual officeholder collectable sums from $5,000 to $10,000 for Councilmembers, and $5,000 to $25,000 for citywide electeds. Ms. Doud cited a "survey" she conducted of "comparable" California cities and argued that increasing allowable officeholder totals could reduce pressure to tap taxpayer sums for Council-office desired items. Her recommendations suited newly elected Mayor Bob Foster and Councilmembers gladly voted to enact them.

That's where things stood until Mayor Robert Garcia and five new Councilmembers took their current offices in mid-2014 [all of whom are seeking re-election in April 2018.]\ Mayor Garcia chose his former Council office field rep, now Councilmember Lena Gonzalez, to chair the Council's "Elections Oversight Committee" (at that time, comprised of Gonzalez, Uranga and Mungo.) In the latter half of 2014, the Committee discussed changes to LB campaign laws, including changing officeholder account sums. On December 16, 2014 (during the pre-Christmas low-attention period), the Committee voted 3-0 to advance a recommendation to the Council that included tripling the amounts LB electeds could annually collect (raising them to $30,000 per year per Councilmember, $75,000 per year for citywide electeds.)

The proposed ordinance changes ultimately reached the Council for voted action on Jan. 20, 2015. Councilmembers Price, Austin and Mungo favored increasing officeholder account sums but not as high as the Committee recommended; Price, Austin and Mungo proposed $20,000 for Councilmembers, $50,000 for the Mayor; a motion to do this (Austin-Price) failed 3-5. That led to a vote on a motion to triple the "officeholder" collectable annual sums -- making them $30,000 per year for each Councilmember and $75,000 per year for citywide electeds. It carried 5-3 (Austin, Price, Mungo dissenting, 4th district vacant.) In terms of potential dollars that could be collected, Mayor Garcia was the biggest beneficiary of the Council action.

Following the 2016 election cycle, Mayor Garcia named Councilwoman Jeannine Price (a member of Garcia's 2014 "transition team") to chair the Elections Oversight Committee. In March 2017, with no prior public hearings and no accompanying explanatory written materials, Committee chair Pearce agendized an item that proposed in substance that the City Manager study the feasibility of letting the Mayor and Councilmembers give their tripled officeholder sums to candidates seeking LB, state and political offices, something not allowed under current LB law. Pearce fogged the substance of the item by listing it as a request that management study the feasibility of making LB law consistent with state law. On a 2-1 vote (Pearce and Andrews "yes"; Supernaw "no"), the Committee sent the voted item for a management study on the matter to the full City Council.

On April 4, the item as agendized was "Recommendation to request City Manager to study the feasibility of aligning councilmember and other elected officials officeholder accounts to those of state/FPPC regulations." The Council agenda attributed the item to Councilwoman Pearce as chair of the Elections Oversight Committee. A one page written statement accompanied the item, reciting that: "It is the recommendation of the Elections Oversight Committee to the City Council to request the City Manager to study the feasibility of aligning councilmember and other elected officials officeholder accounts to those of state/FPPC regulations." Unstated publicly: the action would let Councilmembers, the Mayor and other citywide electeds use their "officeholder" accounts, whose allowable totals a Council majority voted to triple in 2015, to support candidates flavored by the incumbents running for other LB, state or federal offices.

After the clerk read the agendized title, the Mayor gave Councilwoman Pearce the floor. Pearce stated that the Committee had "looked at this," described present LB law, then stated: "We'd like to make a motion to have the City Attorney amend" the current LB law. In other words, Pearce moved to make the changes without any city manager "study" of the action's "feasibility" that she and her Committee had voted (2-1) as its recommendation to Council.

Councilman Supernaw initially missed the switch. He explained why he'd dissented on the Council committee vote and remarked, mistakenly, that the item "is just looking for a study, not that absolute decision." Mayor Garcia corrected him, noting that Pearce's motion wasn't to seek a "study" but was in fact to move for a change in the municipal code. City Attorney Charles Parkin confirmed this. In response, Councilman Supernaw thanked them for their clarification and said nothing further. Neither did any other Councilmembers.

The Pearce-Gonzalez motion carried on a 6-1 vote, with Supernaw dissenting and Price and Andrews absent. (Price was present earlier but exited the Council Chamber prior to the item; Andrews was absent for the entire meeting.)

A week later on April 11, the City Attorney-drafted text arrived (with no accompanying explanatory materials) for its first of two enacting votes. Mayor Garcia took the item out of order near start of the meeting. One public speaker, frequent Council communicator Larry Goodhue, said the measure "doesn't pass the smell test." The Council approved the item with no substantive discussion on a 6-1 vote with Supernaw dissenting, Pearce and Price absent (with Price walking in a few items later.)

On April 18, the Council took its second and final enacting vote (5-3, Supernaw, Price, Mungo dissenting, Richardson absent.) Multiple public speakers testified against the action. Neighborhoods First leader Joe Sopo said Council approval would reduce public confidence in the city's political system and deter public participation. 5th dist. resident Raman Visishth stated, and reiterated in various forms, that what the Council was doing serves the incumbents, not the public. 3rd dist. resident Steve Downing urged the Council to, at minimum, send the item back to Committee for discussion.

Only one public speaker testified in support: former Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga, spouse of Council incumbent Roberto Uranga, who said the change would "update" LB law to make LB consistent with state law. And Ms. Reyes-Uranga went further, recommending that the Council also look at changing LB's term limits law to allow three consecutive Council terms (without a write-in), have a "full time" Council and adopt a "strong Mayor" system (instead of its city manager form of government.) .

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