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L.A. City Council candidate prods opponent to shun outside spending

Facing possible runoff, L.A. City Council candidate asks opponent to reject spending by independent committees

As she gears up for a possible runoff, Los Angeles City Council candidate Carolyn Ramsay is prodding a potential opponent to reject spending by independent committees to back his campaign.

Ramsay is narrowly leading a crowded field of candidates in the race to represent a council district that stretches from Sherman Oaks to the Miracle Mile, according to unofficial election results.

She was trailed by David Ryu and Tomas O’Grady as the city clerk continued to tally provisional ballots Wednesday. The three were separated by fewer than 200 votes as of the last available count.

Ryu, a community health center development director, benefited in the primary from more than $50,000 in independent expenditures -- spending made by outside donors. Such committees can raise and spend unlimited sums to back a candidate as long as they don’t coordinate with his or her campaign.

Ramsay, chief of staff to Councilman Tom LaBonge, and O’Grady, who heads a nonprofit that builds school gardens, did not benefit from any such spending.

In a letter to Ryu sent Wednesday, Ramsay urged him to join her in publicly rejecting independent expenditures made on their behalf.

She said that if any independent committees ignored that call and spent money to back her election bid, she would donate the same amount in campaign funds to charity -- and asked Ryu to do the same.

In a statement, Ramsay said she was trying to curb “the outsized influence of independent expenditures that turn our elections into special-interest power grabs.”

Ryu responded with a letter of his own, saying that he, too, was worried about the influence of outside money, and thought the City Council and state lawmakers should look at some possible reforms.

But he argued that Ramsay's proposal would end up ceding more control to "unaccountable outside funders."

"If someone made a large expenditure -- which would, by law, be without our approval or control and, quite conceivably, in a way that we did not find helpful -- then a requirement to donate an equivalent amount to charity would serve only to strip the campaign of any ability to deliver its own message," he wrote.

Ryu also cautioned that as of Wednesday, the results of the race were still unclear.

More than 46,000 outstanding ballots remained to be counted citywide, according to the Los Angeles city clerk's Office.

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