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Contribution Limits Reviewed by Ethics Commission

Following a thorough review of the City’s campaign contribution limits, the City Ethics Commission in March declined to recommend any increase in the amount City candidates may raise from contributors at this time. The Commission noted the fact that actual contributions in City elections continue to fall far below existing limits, and that increasing current limits may unfairly benefit incumbent officeholders. The Commission also declined to adjust the spending limits that apply to candidates who participate in the City’s public matching funds program, and to the limits that City law currently imposes on elected officials’ Officeholder Fund Accounts.

The Commission’s recommendations were transmitted to the City Council, where action is pending.

The Commission’s review was triggered by a City law requirement first enacted in August 2003, Los Angeles Municipal Code § 49.7.12, which requires the Commission to determine whether certain limits in City law should be adjusted to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index. The provision requires the Commission to review, every five years, the contribution limits established by voters in City Charter § 470(c), the campaign spending limits of LAMC § 49.7.13, and the officeholder account expenditure limits in LAMC § 49.7.12(A)(6).

Currently, no person may contribute more than $500 in a primary or general election to a candidate for City Council. Contribution limits for the three Citywide candidates – Mayor, City Attorney, and Controller – are limited to $1000 per person per election.

As part of the City’s public matching funds program, candidates agree to abide by expenditure ceilings in exchange for receiving the benefit of partial public financing in their campaigns. For example, spending limits for a qualifying City Council candidate are $330,000 in a primary and $275,000 in a general election, while a participating Mayoral candidate agrees to be bound by a spending limit in the primary of $2,251,000 and a limit of $1,800,000 for the general election. City law limits an elected official who has an officeholder account fund from spending more than $75,000 from that account during a fiscal year.

For more detailed information about the Commission’s discussion and the basis for its recommendation, link here to Ethics Commission file transmitted to the City Council.

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