Op-ed: Finding reasonable limits

In his “Start the Presses” column of April 10, News-Press & Leader editor Dan Evans raises two questions the League of Women Voters would like to see answered.

First, Evans states that “though I agree with the spirit of the campaign contribution limits, I believe Burbank’s leaders need to be watchful of the implications.” We would like to know, specifically, what are the implications that Burbank’s leaders should be watchful of? Is there something the rest of us ought to know about as well?

Secondly, Evans asks if the low turnout in the primary might be due, in part, to too-low campaign contribution limits. We’re not at all sure how one might attribute low turnout to any particular cause or causes on the basis of one election. But the question of whether Burbank’s current $250-contribution limit is too low is a very good one.

The League of Women Voters is a strong supporter of reasonable contribution limits. But what are reasonable limits? Many factors affect the amount chosen, but certainly one of them is whether the limit allows candidates, particularly challengers, to raise enough money to mount an effective campaign.

Limits that are too low make it difficult, if not impossible, to fund a campaign with contributions from the grass roots and open the door to ever increasing amounts of independent expenditures from political action committees that cannot be limited in any way. Is this something Burbank needs to address?

So we would welcome Evans’ comments on what contribution limits he feels might be most effective. If not $250, then what? $500? $1,000?

And we hope that the citizens of Burbank will join this conversation as well. What do you, the voters, think about the current contribution limit? Is it still a reasonable amount? Or should it be increased to come into line with the general rise in prices for everything?

What do current and former candidates for City Council and school board think? What do their treasurers and supporters think? Does your experience lead you to believe that the current limit works well? Or has the cost of campaigning reached the point where the $250 limit restricts your ability to raise enough money from individual citizens to reach voters with your message?

We look forward to hearing from Mr. Evans. And we hope that Burbank citizens will let us know what they think. A thoughtful and reasoned discussion of the question will benefit us all — and improve the civic life of our city.

Chris Carson and Joan Hardie


Editor’s note: Carson and Hardie are the co-presidents of the League of Women Voters Glendale/Burbank.


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