Bill Boyarsky
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An impossible mission

We at the ethics commission have embarked on an impossible mission. We are formally sending our proposal for full public financing of city political campaigns to the city council and I don't think it has much of a chance

In the last election, California voters strongly turned down a plan for public financing of state campaigns. Some of the most fervent Los Angeles political reformers have turned against us because we didn't give them exactly what they wanted. As for the city council, the members showed their contempt for the ethics commission when they approved their term limit extension--the infamous and victorious Proposition R on the recent ballot--without consulting the commissioners. Anyway, most of our proposals end up in the limbo of the council rules committee, consigned to a state of oblivion.

We're an orphan commission with an orphan proposal.

So why bother?

It's a good proposal, badly needed in a city where money rules in elections--money from those doing business at city hall. If a candidates raise a comparatively small amount of money, they are eligible for public funding of their campaigns. This makes it easier for people to run for office and at least sharply limits constant begging for money. Not perfect, but a good start.

Of course, it won't pass quickly. The defeat of the statewide campaign finance proposal showed that. But by sending this measure to the council, the ethics commission is beginning a needed debate. And don't forget recent history. The smart insiders said through most of the year that the public didn't care about congressional corruption. But scandal, along with the war, beat the Republicans.

Finally why I am writing this? Aren't ethics commissioners supposed to try to get along with the city council? We are. But being nice at city hall doesn't do a lot of good. City hall has a "have a nice day" culture. Everyone is nice to your face. But you'd better watch your back.

Writing about campaign finance reform brings the issue out in the open, where it is more difficult to make deals and stab backs. Unfortunately, the media does not write much about it. Reporters and editors don't care about doomed proposals. That leaves public finance and other issues to the bloggers, from inside and outside city hall.



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