Los Angeles City Council candidate Anne Finn has loaned her campaign another $20,000, triggering a "rich man" provision in the city's ethics law that allows her rivals to raise money in excess of a $500-per-donor limit in the race to succeed incumbent Ernani Bernardi.
But several candidates and political observers said lifting the donation cap will have little or no impact on the contest for the 7th Council District, which encompasses a largely low-income portion of the northeast San Fernando Valley.
Candidates have struggled to fill their war chests amid the recession and the mayor's race, which is soaking up millions of contributors' dollars.
"Money's scarce. I don't believe that the ceiling has held people back from raising money," said candidate Raymond J. Magana, a former Bernardi aide who, with about $80,000 in private contributions and city matching money, is the apparent fund-raising leader.
The city Ethics Commission notified Finn's opponents last week that she has loaned her campaign a total of $45,000 in personal funds. That action means that her opponents can raise up to $7,000 per contributor, up to the amount Finn loaned her campaign. Finn, 77, is the widow of Councilman Howard Finn, who represented much of the northeast Valley in the early 1980s.
With only three weeks to go before the April 20 primary election, fund raising in the 7th District has been far below that of races in wealthier districts. Several 7th District contenders have had to loan their campaigns substantial amounts, including city Fire Capt. Lyle Hall, widely considered the early front-runner, who has written personal checks to his campaign totaling at least $20,500.
While most 7th District contenders have raised only about $40,000 to $60,000 so far, Tom LaBonge, a candidate in the 13th District, which covers Hollywood and Silver Lake, has raised about $240,000, including $78,000 in city matching funds. Councilman Marvin Braude, the incumbent in the affluent 11th District, has raised about $160,000, including a $58,500 loan to his campaign.
Seventh District candidates say the anemic level of fund raising is a result of the recession, the mayor's race and the absence of an incumbent. One observer also said that many lobbyists and special-interest donors, facing a large field with several strong candidates, apparently have opted to withhold donations until after the primary election, when just two candidates will head into a June 8 runoff.
Finn said she felt compelled to pump another $20,000 into her campaign to pay her political consultant and underwrite brochures that she expects to mail to voters next month.
She added that she is relieved to not have to make as many fund-raising calls, saying she found it unpleasant to sometimes be rejected or ignored by people she considered allies.
"It's like heaven not to have to talk to people anymore--all the people that I thought were my friends and supporters," she said.
"I resent every two minutes I spend raising money, because it's more important to me to talk to voters."
Magana said Finn's new loan to her campaign indicates that she does not have strong community support. Aside from the loans, Finn has raised only about $15,000 in contributions from individuals, giving her a war chest of about $60,000.
Finn denied that her loans are a sign of weak support. Her popularity with voters, she said, "will show on Election Day."