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Ethics Panel Urged to Wait on Public Campaign Funding

October 11, 2006|Jeffrey L. Rabin | Times Staff Writer

Campaign reform advocates who pushed for full public financing of Los Angeles election campaigns reversed course Tuesday and urged the city Ethics Commission not to rush a proposal to the ballot next spring.

Susan Lerner, executive director of the California Clean Money Campaign, told the commission that it is "overly ambitious to be heading toward a March ballot" with a campaign funding measure.

Lerner said her organization has been preoccupied with promoting Proposition 89 on the Nov. 7 ballot, which would impose strict limits on contributions and establish public financing of campaigns for legislative and statewide offices.

She and other speakers urged the commission to take more time to develop a proposal for full public financing of city elections.

Robert M. Stern, a longtime campaign reform advocate, opposed an Ethics Commission staff recommendation to ask voters to approve a special property tax that would raise $9 million a year for city election campaigns.

"It's just not going to fly," said Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies.

Stern urged the commission to be clear about its goals in overhauling the current system of partial public financing in races for City Council, mayor, city attorney and controller.

After hearing from advocates, the commission agreed to hold a special meeting in two weeks to consider whether to send a public financing proposal to the City Council, whose approval would be needed to put it on the ballot.

But enthusiasm for doing so appeared to wane after the commission staff suggested the parcel tax. "It will never pass," said commission Chairman Gil Garcetti.

A year ago, a majority of Ethics Commission members went on record in favor of full public financing to curb special-interest influence at City Hall.

Even with full public financing, commissioners were told that unions, businesses and individuals could still spend unlimited amounts on independent campaigns for or against candidates.

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jeffrey.rabin@latimes.com

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