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Study Calls for Reforms in Campaign Disclosures

March 25, 1993|MIKE WARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN GABRIEL VALLEY — Specifically citing campaigns in Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Gabriel, Azusa and Claremont, a study by a private bipartisan organization found that far more money is being spent per vote by special interests on many local measures than on statewide initiatives.

This finding prompted the California Commission on Campaign Financing to recommend several campaign reforms, including a requirement that the largest donors be identified in all campaign advertising.

In the San Gabriel Valley elections cited by the study, heavy spending generally did not pay off at the polls. In almost every case cited, voters rejected the position taken by big campaign donors.

In Claremont in 1986, for example, developer William (Buck) Jones spent $182,030 seeking voter approval of a zone change but lost the election 84% to 16%, even though his opponents spent less than $6,000.

In Azusa in 1987, Johnny E. Johnson, owner of Azusa Greens Country Club, spent $227,950 trying to persuade voters to allow him to build housing, offices and factories on the property or authorize a $26-million bond issue for city purchase of the land. The opposition spent less than $5,000 but won anyway.

In South Pasadena in 1983, an Orange County developer, Huntington Capitol Corp., spent $52,371 trying to defeat a building height limit measure. Supporters spent about $4,000 and won a narrow victory.

San Gabriel voters in 1987 adopted a growth moratorium measure, even though proponents were outspent nearly 4 to 1. One developer, Shyu Corp. of Monterey Park, gave $40,434 to the losing cause.

In Pasadena, heavy campaign spending produced mixed results. A growth limit measure was defeated in 1988 by a campaign financed by nearly $160,000 in contributions, including four of more than $15,000 each from local real estate interests and businesses.

But a different growth limit measure with broader support won in 1989, despite a $47,083 campaign against it that included a $22,062 donation from hotel developer Larry J. Mielke.

Under state law, campaign contributions of $100 or more must be listed in public documents filed with election officials, but the commission study found that many voters still do not know who is funding campaigns.

The study recommends that the names of the two biggest contributors be included in all television, direct mail and radio ads; that slate mailers clearly identify who has paid for each listing, and that petitions that are circulated for initiatives carry the names of the two largest donors.

Other proposed reforms include a proposal to make it more difficult to amend city and county charters by requiring 60% approval in one election or a simple majority in two successive elections.

In arriving at its recommendations, the commission conducted a computerized analysis of more than $30 million in contributions and expenditures on 40 ballot measures in 20 cities in the Los Angeles area.

The spending amounted to as much as $139 per vote in the 1986 Claremont election and $105 per vote in the 1987 Azusa election, far more money than is spent per vote on even the most hotly contested statewide initiatives.

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