LA May Finally Rein In Developers Looking To Influence City Hall

After an Ethics Commission vote, L.A. City Councilmembers are set to weigh in on whether new restrictions on political spending in the City of Los Angeles will move forward. (File photo by Orlando Contreras López/flickr Creative Commons)

After a long delay, L.A.'s Ethics Commissioners voted Tuesday to recommend the city council enact significant limits on political contributions.

The panel voted to support new rules that would restrict many developers and businesses from making donations to L.A. officials and impose a host of new restrictions on money raised by politicians who solicit donations for their favored causes.

The set of recommendations that the commission voted on was based on a lengthy report prepared by commission staff.

Tuesday's vote is a big step forward for campaign finance reform efforts. The recommendations will now move to the L.A. City Council Rules Committee, which is chaired by Council President Herb Wesson.

A similar motion was brought forward in the City Council more than two years ago but failed to gain traction.

Ryu has been pushing for reform to campaign finance laws in Los Angeles since his election in 2015. He declined developer contributions during his campaign.

The recommendations voted on Tuesday include potentially dramatic changes to the rules governing so-called behested payments.

In 2017, KPCC found that Mayor Eric Garcetti had set a record for his use of the little-known and, at the time, largely unregulated method of fundraising. Garcetti used the mechanism to raise $31.9 million in large donations to his favored causes from individuals, businesses and foundations — a number that has grown since that time.

The ethics commissioners recommended lowering the reporting threshold, currently set at $5,000, to just $1,000. If approved, that move has the potential to uncover a wave of solicited donations that were previously shielded from public view.

Other recommended changes include a ban on behested payments from "restricted sources," which includes lobbyists and people bidding on city contracts, along with increased disclosure requirements.

The ethics commission's votes come in the midst of an FBI probe into possible corruption at City Hall, which has brought renewed attention to charitable donations solicited by politicians.