It is incredibly important to reduce the influence of the large amounts of private money in elections to avoid the appearance and reality of corruption. In Los Angeles, candidates who agree to raise money from small dollar donors living within the City of Los Angeles are eligible to receive public matching funds for private contributions raised. California Common Cause, in conjunction with the LA City Ethics Commission, has recommended reforms that would strengthen the program. Recent changes in 2012 to the matching funds system have improved the system, but even more is possible.
LA CITY MATCHING FUNDS 2016 from Shoot First Inc. on Vimeo.
A more robust system of public financing will reduce the appearance of corruption, and on top of that will ensure that more of the money in campaigns comes from donors within the communities that are represented by those politicians. Furthermore, public financing encourages candidates to view their constituents as not only voters, but also as donors. By matching constituents' small dollar donations with public money, candidates have a greater incentive to spend more time in their home district talking to voters and less time fundraising from outside special interests. As candidates spend more time with their constituents, voters will feel greater ownership over local elections and will be more likely to turnout on Election Day.
We believe that the L.A. Ethics Commission’s recommended reforms to the public matching funds system will make these goals possible:
Raise Matching Funds Rate:
Raise the match rate to 6:1 for all qualifying contributions.
Raise Maximum Public Fund Amounts:
- For City Council candidates: $150,000 (primary), $187,000 (general);
- For Controller candidates: $400,000 (primary), $450,000 (general);
- For City Attorney candidates: $450,000 (primary), $475,000 (general);
- For Mayoral candidates: $1,000,000 (primary), $1,200,000 (general).
These recommended reforms will strengthen the current LA City public financing system by adding additional incentives for candidates to spend more time with constituents, and less time chasing outside special interests, ultimately increasing public participation and limiting conditions for corruption.