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Keep That Special Achievement : Some Long Beach politicians try a cynical end run

A slush fund is a slush fund is a slush fund. No matter how hard the Long Beach City Council tries to disguise the slush funds it wants to create for itself as “officeholder accounts,” slush funds are what we keep seeing.

The council is trying to gut a campaign finance reform that Long Beach voters approved last June. That reform permits fund-raising only during the 18 months immediately preceding an election. No more than $5,000 in surplus campaign money can be kept after the end of a campaign.

Proposition M, as the Long Beach reform was called, has other exemplary provisions. It strictly limits contributions to $250 per election for a council candidate and $500 per election for a mayoral candidate. It imposes overall limits on spending. It provides for partial public financing.

And yet the heart of the reform is its attempt to redirect elected officials toward the job they were elected for--the job of governing--and away from the corrupting “job” of nonstop campaigning. Unfortunately, some council members seem to prefer campaigning to governing. They want to be free to raise money year-round, up to $10,000 annually, and they want no restrictions on how they may spend it.

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They claim this money is not for them but rather for needy folks back in the district. And yet they refuse to define what constitutes an acceptable “officeholder” expenditure. The line between service to constituents and outright vote-buying disappears in this outrageous attempt by a group of politicians to stage an end run around the expressed will of the electorate.

The Long Beach City Council has done what it could to neutralize this reform when no one was looking. Debate has been minimal, though groups like the League of Women Voters and California Common Cause have tried to blow a timely whistle.

Anti-reform amendments are up for a vote today. If enough citizens show up--early enough and angry enough and vocal enough--the law may yet be saved. If not, it will have to be revived when those who are determined to destroy it come up for reelection.


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