|(October 3, 2018, 11:55 a.m.) -- LBREPORT.com has learned that at least three LB Council incumbents have recently held or will soon hold events seeking contributions to their "officeholder accounts." These accounts are controlled by the Council incumbents and funded by contributions by private entities and individuals. In 2015, a Council majority voted to change LB law to let themselves triple the annual sums they can collect in their "officeholder accounts":and in 2017, a Council majority voted to politically weaponize the "officeholder account" sums for potential use by the incumbents to assist campaigns by others (including each other) for city, state or federal offices.
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Other Council incumbents may also have held "officeholder" contribution events that we don't know about yet; if you received such an invitation, email us as copy of the invitation at mail@LBReport.com so we can add it here.
Details on who gave/will be giving the incumbents sums at these events aren't immediately known but will become public when the incumbents file campaign finance paperwork no later than Jan. 31, 2019.
The Council actions that changed LB laws governing "officeholder account" began shortly after Mayor Garcia and a new Council majority took office in mid-2014. Garcia chose his former Council-office aide, Gonzalez, to chair (and thus control the agenda of) the Council's Elections and Oversight Committee where she spearheaded the resulting 2015 action that tripled the "officeholder accounts." Two years later, Garcia chose Jeannine Pearce to replace Gonzalez as chair of the same committee where she advanced the change that politically weaponized the officeholder accounts. Council majorities voted to make both changes over public testimony in opposition.
In response to the public opposition, some incumbents argued that the actions would align LB (which had more restrictive rules) with Sacramento-enacted statewide statutes (whose standards are less restrictive) and would "update" rules on their "officeholder accounts" to enable the incumbents to better support neighborhood activities, civic groups and conduct Council district events.
Financial forms filed with the City Clerk's office show that in the first half of 2018 (Jan. 1-June 30), incumbents Richardson, Uranga and Pearce used their "officeholder accounts" for items that included following:
In June 1994, following advocacy by a now-former leftish grassroots advocacy group, Long Beach Area Citizens Involved (LBACI) and supported by then-Councilman Alan Lowenthal, LB voters enacted a "Long Beach Campaign Reform Act" that (among other things) limited campaign contributions to campaigns for LB elective offices and stated the following in its Text of Findings and Declarations:
[LB Muni Code section 2.01.120 (E)] 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 LB voter-approved "Campaign Reform Act" didn't include "officeholder accounts." They were added -- over the objections of a number of Campaign Reform Act supporters who bluntly called them "slush funds" -- by Council voted action in 1995 without a vote of the people.
The officeholder accounts were initially set at modest levels until in 2007 -- after the election of Mayor Foster and with the publicly stated support of City Auditor Laura Doud -- the Council voted to increase allowed officeholder account sums, with Foster and Doud both contending that the increase would let Councilmembers pay for district items without tapping City Hall budget sums.
The 2007 officeholder account levels remained unchanged until Mayor Garcia and a new Council majority took office in mid-2014 and Council majorities took voted actions in 2015 that tripled allowable officeholder account sums and in 2017 politically weaponized the officeholder accounts for use to help elect or defeat candidates seeking other offices. On both the 2015 and 2017 Council voted actions, Auditor Doud remained publicly mum.
On taking office as Mayor, Garcia swiftly appointed his former office aide, Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, to chair the "Elections Oversight Committee" where as chair in control of the Committee agenda, she advanced a measure to the City Council to significantly increase allowable officeholder accounts. On Feb. 3, 2015, the Council voted to triple the amounts to $30,000 per year for Councilmembers, $75,000 for citywide elected officials (such as the Mayor.) The vote was 5-3, with Price, Mungo, Austin dissenting (who supported doubling the previous amounts.)
Following the 2016 election cycle, Mayor Garcia appointed newly-elected Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce to chair the "Elections Oversight Committee," a position she used to propose allowing incumbents to use (effectively weaponize) their officeholder accounts to help elect/defeat candidates seeking other LB, federal, state offices.
On April 11, 2017, the Council voted 6-1 (Supernaw dissenting, Peace and Price absent) and on April 18, 2017 voted 5-3 (Supernaw, Price, Mungo dissenting, Richardson absent) to enable Councilmembers, the Mayor and other citywide electeds to use "officeholder" accounts to support candidates favored by the incumbents running for other LB, state or federal offices...and Mayor Garcia didn't, veto the action.
Pearce herself then exploited the change to legally contribute sums from her officeholder account in the second half of 2017 to help
Mayor Garcia also exploited the change and used his "officeholder account" to give $1,000 to the campaign that elected Jimmy Gomez (D, Los Angeles) to Congress and gave $500 to the campaign to elect Signal Hill City Council candidate Kier Jones (who lost the election by one vote.)
Councilwoman Gonzalez also used her officeholder account to help elect/re-elect politicians actively seeking other offices. In the second half of 2017 she gave $500 to the campaign to elect state Senator Ricardo Lara (D, Long Beach-Huntington Park) statewide Insurance Commissioner. (If Lara wins, it would free up a state Senate seat stretching from Long Beach to Huntington Park.) Gonzalez also gave $500 each to the campaign to re-elect Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D, LB-west OC) and elect Mike Levin to the SD-area Congressional seat being vacated by Cong. Darrel Issa (R, N SD county)
Vice Mayor Richardson used his officeholder account to retire $4,000 in campaign debts amassed by his former boss, former 9th district Councilman Steve Neal (who fell short of making it into a 2014 runoff for an Assembly seat.)
And once it became clear that incumbent Councilman Rex Richardson faced no organized opposition and would be safely re-elected, Richardson tapped his re-election campaign warchest to make a whopping $10,000 "in-kind" contribution for "campaign staff/walkers" (in effect providing a valuable ground campaign) to support Uduak-Joe Ntuk (a Dem Party partisan) in his ultimately successful campaign to oust long-time incumbent LBCC Trustee (and Repub) Jeff Kellogg.
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