City Council Backs Bonin Proposal to Help Grassroots Candidates for Local Office Battle Big Money and Special Interests

LOS ANGELES (Tuesday, April 16, 2019) – In a landmark vote for campaign finance reform, the Los Angeles City Council today approved an expansion of a public matching funds program, making it easier for grassroots candidates to run robust, competitive campaigns for local office. The proposal, authored by Councilmember Mike Bonin, was backed by campaign finance reform and clean money activists throughout the state.

The Council unanimously approved a motion — labeled “the Bonin amendment” by City Ethics Commission staff — to reduce the fundraising threshold candidates are required to reach in order to qualify for the city’s public matching funds program. The reform makes it easier for neighborhood candidates with broad support from small-dollar donors to qualify for matching funds, allowing them to campaign more competitively.

“The matching funds program helps remove the toxic influence of money in politics, and the reforms the council supported today will make it easier for more people to participate in the city’s matching funds program,” said Bonin. “We are making big strides in progressive campaign finance reform in Los Angeles, thanks to the tireless efforts of dedicated activists and organizations like the California Clean Money Campaign, Money Out Voters In, and the UnRigLA coalition.”

Late last year, the council voted to reform the matching funds program to increase the total amount of public money available to candidates and to lower the amount of each individual contribution that could be matched with public money. In approving those reforms, the council unintentionally made it more difficult for candidates to qualify for the system by requiring candidates to nearly double the number of contributions they would have to receive from within their district before they are eligible for the program. The Bonin amendment adjusts the qualifying threshold to make the matching funds program more accessible to grassroots candidates.

The approval of the Bonin amendment earned praise from grassroots leaders in campaign finance reform efforts in Los Angeles and throughout California.

“Today’s amendment makes Los Angeles matching funds system an example for the nation: A system that provides a 6-to-1 match on small donations, not large donations, and that isn’t too hard for strong grassroots candidates to qualify,” said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign. “We are fortunate to have had the steadfast leadership of Councilmember Bonin to pass this amendment and of Council President Herb Wesson to move it forward, along with the grassroots coalition and the rest of council who helped make it happen.”

“Lowering the qualifying threshold helps alleviate a disincentive and disadvantage for grassroots candidates, and particularly women, considering running for office,” said Michele Sutter of MOVI, Money Out Voters In. “It also tells us that there are people in City Hall who are serious about addressing LA’s money and corruption problems. That’s a good thing.”

“We’re finally moving towards a public financing system that lives up to the principles laid out in our charter by truly empowering the many, and not just the moneyed or well connected,” added Rob Quan, an organizer with the Unrig L.A. coalition. “Rarely do those in power concede an inch, which is why we can’t overstate the importance of Councilmember Bonin going the extra mile to open up our democratic process.”

Tuesday’s council action instructs the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance formally modifying the matching funds program. The final ordinance is expected to be considered by the city council in the coming months, which will allow the changes to be in place for the upcoming 2020 municipal elections in Los Angeles.

“A lot of effort went into achieving this progress and I sincerely appreciate the work of the Ethics Commission members and staff, as well as Council President Herb Wesson Jr., Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Councilmember Nury Martinez, who studied the issue carefully when it was heard by the council’s Rule Committee,” said Bonin.

For more information about Councilmember Bonin, please visit www.11thdistrict.com.

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