IRVINE : Political Campaign Reforms on Docket

The City Council tonight will review a proposal to revise the city's ordinance governing political campaigns. The new plan is intended to close loopholes in existing regulations.

The proposed ordinance, more than a year in the making, would raise limits on campaign contributions, prohibit multiple campaign committees and create new regulations in areas ranging from the transfer of campaign funds to campaign loans.

One key proposal would raise the limit on individual contributions from $190 to $500.

But the changes fall short of regulating the contributions of political action committees, said Mark Petracca, a UC Irvine political scientist and a member of the committee that helped draft the proposed ordinance.

"We have deleted a key provision that would have restricted contributions from independent expenditure committees," Petracca said. "I'm disappointed that's not in there, but on the other hand, we've come up with something that is a reasonable first step."

Councilwoman Paula Werner said calls for a new ordinance were spurred by the abuses of political action committees in prior city elections.

"We have a campaign contribution limit that has absolutely no teeth in it," Werner said. "Money can get out of hand in local races."

Werner believes the proposed $500 limit on individual contributions is too high.

The current limit is $190 per person, but political action committees have been formed in past elections for the sole purpose of circumventing the contribution limit.

Councilman Greg Smith said an increase in contribution limits is needed because the cost of running a campaign is 30% higher than it was four years ago.

"In today's economy, $190 is not a realistic figure. It's got to go up," Smith said. "Whether or not $500 is the magic figure, I don't know."

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