Turn $100 into $700 to Promote Grassroots Campaigning in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, Thursday, October 4, 2018 – The Los Angeles City Council on Friday should pass a package of reforms that would turn $100 donations from ordinary residents into $700 donations, if city council and citywide candidates meet certain requirements like participating in a public debate, said California Common Cause Executive Director Kathay Feng.

The proposed match rate of $6 public dollars for every $1 personal dollar — up to the first $115 dollars for city council candidates and $215 for citywide candidates — should compel candidates to spend more time and energy courting regular voters in their districts, Feng said.

If you do the math, the proposed match rate makes $115 from a regular voter as valuable as the maximum donation from a wealthy individual donor (that’s $805 with the match from the small dollar donor, compared to $800 max from the wealthy donor), she said. Same goes for citywide candidates at a max $1,500.

“Creating a super match will reward candidates for spending more time cultivating constituents instead of chasing out of town, special interest money,” Feng said. “We’ve seen this work in New York City, and it’s about time Los Angeles caught up.”

California Common Cause proposed the $6 to $1 match three years ago after analysis showed the current match rate of $2 to $1 in primaries and $4 to $1 in general elections opened the door to grassroots candidates, but that more needed to be done to increase the influence of small dollar donors and decrease the influence of wealthy special interests. The proposal is modeled after systems in Berkeley and New York City.

The match money would come with certain, revised requirements. To show their viability and qualify for the match, for instance, candidates would need to participate in a debate or town hall meeting that is open to the public.

The council will also consider lowering the threshold amount candidates must raise to earn the matching funds. Under a motion expected to be introduced, city council candidates would need to raise $11,500 from in-resident donors, or the equivalent of 100 contributions of $115. The mayoral qualifying threshold would be $64,500, or 300 contributions of $215. Other citywide candidates would qualify with $32,250, or 150 contributions of $215.

The Los Angeles City Council meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at Van Nuys City Hall, 11410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys. Review the meeting agenda and materials.

UPDATE: The council voted 10-0 on Oct. 5 to move forward with drafting a new public finance ordinance. The action stems from a motion co-presented in January 2017 by Councilmembers David Ryu, Paul Krekorian and Joe Buscaino. Read their release on the vote.