REDONDO BEACH — Several residents, including the mayor and the city treasurer, are circulating petitions seeking a ballot initiative that would limit campaign contributions and prohibit some campaign practices.
If the effort succeeds, Redondo Beach would be the third city in the South Bay to adopt such a measure, after Gardena and Los Angeles.
Some Redondo Beach politicians and business leaders charge that the effort is Mayor Barbara J. Doerr's way of carrying out a personal vendetta. The proposed seven-part City Charter amendment directly addresses several controversial issues that arose during the 1985 city election, some of which involved Doerr.
King Harbor a Target
The initiative also is aimed at limiting the influence of King Harbor business interests--traditionally large campaign contributors, according to initiative supporters--by making it illegal for businesses contracting with the city to contribute to candidates in city elections.
"Unfortunately, money is an important thing in an election. . . . It has a lot to do with the outcome," said City Treasurer Alice DeLong.
Council member Archie Snow, however, downplayed the importance of contributions: "It's not so much the money that counts as the sophistication of the campaign that matters."
In the three 1985 city elections, the winners received 600% more than losers in contributions, according to campaign reports. Doerr, however, clinched the mayor's seat in the primary election even though her opponent, Jerry Goddard, collected $21,921 to her $8,587.
Doerr says that some elected officials have been influenced by large campaign donations, such as those from King Harbor lessees. "Everybody's going to deny that they're influenced, but yes, I think they're influenced," Doerr said. Harbor lessees are using campaign contributions to their "landlords" as "a sneaky way to get rent control," the mayor charged.
"She's ticked off because nobody's giving it to her," said council member Marcia Martin, adding that she was not a recipient of large business contributions in her 1983 campaign.
"It's based on a personal vendetta and that's what irritates me. It's not based on truth, justice and the American Way," Martin said. "I hate to see so many issues like this become personal things."
The ballot initiative would limit campaign contributions to $250 total from any one source for the general and runoff elections combined. It also prohibits contributors from trying to get around the $250 limit by funneling contributions through committees or other interests.
Mary Davis, president of the King Harbor Assn.--an organization of all harbor lessees--and a member of the Harbor and Pier Lessees Assn.--a political action committee--said she is not concerned about the proposed initiative because harbor interests "don't contribute that much money anyway." She estimated that she personally contributed a total of $4,000 to local, state and federal candidates or committees during the past five years.
"It's just another political ploy for (Doerr) to run for election next time," Davis said. Harbor lessees do not contribute to Doerr's campaigns, and she is worried about their contributions to her opponents, Davis said. She speculates that Doerr will run for City Council in the future, as she will have served the maximum two terms as mayor when her term expires in 1989.
In Redondo Beach, the mayor does not vote, but has veto power over council actions.
No Plans to Run
Doerr said she is not planning to run for any city office and will probably get another job when her term expires. As an elected official or a resident, she said, she is concerned about the effects of "undue influence" on the city.
Snow said he is not influenced by the campaign contributions he has received from harbor interests, and that the lessees are "always picked out for the whipping people."
He said, "I look at the project, not the person. I have voted against projects of my friends who were very upset with me."
He agreed that campaign contributions should be limited, but said businesses, including those that deal with the city, should have the same freedom to donate as individuals. He said he would accept a $250 limit, but said the general and runoff elections should be considered separately.
'Probably Are Influenced'
City Clerk John Oliver, who supports the proposed initiative, said he does not believe that any council member has been "bought," but said they probably are influenced by campaign contributions. "I have never been bought and paid," he said, "but when that individual calls, I pick up the phone.
"If someone gives you something, you have that natural tendency to feel that you have to give them something in return. . . . Maybe politicians have different mores. Maybe they just take money and don't feel they have to give in return."
Initiative supporters say the $250 limit will make it easier for business people who may feel pressured to contribute to candidates who may have an effect on their livelihoods.