Judge rejects bid to overturn campaign finance limits

A federal judge on Tuesday turned down the request of a political committee with close ties to the Department of Water and Power employee unions that sought to bar the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission from enforcing a campaign contribution limit.

The group, Working Californians, said the law was preventing it from making independent expenditures for Los Angeles City Council candidate Christine Essel in her Dec. 8 runoff against Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Los Angeles).

Independent groups have spent more than $542,000 on Essel’s campaign for the San Fernando Valley seat of former Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who is now city controller.

Working Californians, co-chaired by the heads of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11 and Local 18, had challenged a 1985 city law stating that a political committee cannot accept contributions greater than $500 if it intends to use that money on an independent expenditure for a city candidate. Working Californians claimed the provision violated its free speech rights.


U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson concluded that Working Californians had “not established a likelihood of success on the merits of its 1st Amendment claims.” The ruling noted that Working Californians had received contributions from just six sources since 2007 -- including the two political action committees controlled by IBEW, Local 11 and Local 18.

Pregerson also said the group had not provided evidence that enforcement of the restrictions “will effectively thwart its ability to make independent expenditures” in the two weeks before the runoff.