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Orange County Focus

IRVINE : Reform Proposal Prompts Questions

March 26, 1994|SHELBY GRAD

City Council members raised questions this week about a series of proposed campaign finance reforms intended to close loopholes in Irvine laws.

The reform proposal, presented Tuesday by the League of Women Voters, will be reviewed by city staff members and the city attorney during the next month.

The council is expected to vote on the proposal in May.

Since 1977, there has been a $190 limit for individuals contributing to candidates in an Irvine council election.

However, there is no such limit for political action committees and other independent groups that spend money to support candidates but have no official affiliation with them.

As a result, league officials said, PACs representing city employee associations or other groups have been able to legally circumvent the contribution limits.

The league reforms would apply the $190 cap to PACs.

Mayor Michael Ward questioned whether such a move would give candidates who are willing to spend large sums of their own money an advantage over less wealthy candidates.

League officials said they would also like to place limits on the amount candidates can donate to their own campaigns but that such a rule would be unconstitutional.

Ward said he is wary about any major change to Irvine's campaign rules, which he described as among the toughest in the county.

Councilwomen Paula Werner and Christina L. Shea said they oppose the part of the reform proposal that calls for limiting to $190 the amount that couples with joint checking accounts may contribute to a candidate, saying that would discriminate against married couples.

League officials said that clause is designed to prevent candidates from pressuring couples into making more than one contribution.

Council members expressed support for other proposed reforms, including one that would prohibit city employees from soliciting campaign contributions from people who do business with the city.

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