Ballot Box: Independent expenditures add up for city council candidates

Photo by AkZOPhoto/Flickr

When it comes to raising campaign contributions,  the candidates running in the Council District 1 and Council District 13 races  can for the most part receive no more than $700 per person in each election.  All those individual donations add up, with the candidates in both races having raised more than $1.5 million dollars so far. But there is another important source of campaign financial support – the independent expenditure – that is flowing into election, paying for everything from glossy mailers to billboards in support of or against specific candidates.

In the race for Council District 13 , which includes Atwater, Echo Park and Silver Lake, a single mailer in support of John Choi was paid for with an $11,800 independent expenditure made by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO Council on Political Education.  An Echo Park Avenue billboard in favor of Council District 13 candidate Mitch O’Farrell came courtesy of a $2,376  independent expenditure by Echo Park resident Andrew Garsten. Meanwhile, in Council District 1, which stretches from Cypress Park and Mt. Washington to Angeleno Heights and MacArthur Park,  a political action committee  sponsored by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce,  used an independent expenditure of  $11,121 against candidate Jose Gardea to pay for posters, including one that reads “Jose Gardea Failed Us,” in English and Spanish

Unlike campaign contributions, which are restricted by the city,  there are no caps on independent expenditures. However,  those expenditures  have to be made independently  of  the candidates. Those expenditures cannot be made in coordination or with the approval of the candidates.

In total, more than $104,000 in independent expenditures have been spent so far in the Council District 1 election, according to the City Ethics Commission, which tracks the figures.   Another $84,000 was reported in the Council District 13 race.

Who is making  independent expenditures?  In the case of Council Districts 1 and 13, unions and their political action committees have been the dominant players.

In Council District 1, State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo has benefited from more than $84,500 in independent expenditures made by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO and its political action committees. In Council District 13, the same union groups supported  former Public Works Commissioner John Choi with nearly $70,000 in expenditures.

Business groups and individuals have also weighed in, with the LA Jobs PAC Sponsored by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce – the same group that opposed Gardea in Council District 1 – spending $3,000 in favor of Council District 13 candidate Alexander Cruz De Ocampo.

Some of the candidates have started to make independent expenditures an issue. In a press release, Gardea, for example, said the independent expenditures being spent against him came from a group that had received money from large corporations, including Chevron. Meanwhile, Council District 13 candidate Josh Post announce that he had signed the People’s Pledge, which is designed in part to curb the influence on independent expenditures in elections.

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  1. had no intention of voting for Choi, but good to know.

  2. I really frown at a candidate that gets Independent Expenditures. Tells me that he can’t get community support and wants to buy the election with special interest backing.

  3. I’m happy that Andrew Garsten put up a billboard for Mitch O’Farrell…this is what pisses me off: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/02/nyc-mayor-bloomberg-la-school-board-candidates.html

    NY’s Mayor Bloomberg has jeopardized Steve Zimmer’s seat on our local school board….Who benefits here? Not local school kids or teachers…..

  4. I live in Highland Park and am voting for Gardea and a whole lot of that has to do with Cedillo’s backers. Why would I vote for a candidate who is taking large donations from huge corporations? You think a guy who has that kind of backing is going to really care about the future of Elysian Park and will fight a large developer?

  5. John Choi would NEVER sign the People’s Pledge. Money is the only thing that has made him a candidate in this race to begin with! He’s an outsider, a newcomer, a carpetbagger. He only moved here 1 year ago to run for the 13th District council-seat so he can represent the special-interests. Without his campaign money, 92% of which comes from outside the 13th District, and the $77,000 that is being spent by the special-interests, like the unions, and developers that want to destroy Elysian Park, and ruin the quality of life in Echo park and Silver Lake, he would not be a candidate AT ALL!!! You have no integrity, John Choi, and we will not let you buy this election!

    • Besides all the comments made about Choi with Union Support

      I find it hard to believe that someone in his early 30’s has the maturity to handle the decisions for the mass population of the city of los angeles

  6. Who isn’t union or developer-owned? I don’t understand why so many voters in LA vote for union backed measures and candidates aside from the fact that they do a good job of propping up their candidates and causes. It’s a boondoggle for service employeses, but do we, the residents of LA, see any benefits? Higher sales taxes, extortionate parking violation fees, skyrocketing DWP costs, untended sidewalk maintenance, etc. Prop 30, for instance — great for unions; terrible for job creation. What a fiasco. You show me a candidate that’s going to bring a sense of independent thinking to office, and I’ll give him/her my 100% support.

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