In a three to two vote, the West Hollywood City Council declined tonight to consider barring council campaign consultants from also lobbying the City Council on behalf of business interests and city vendors.
Mayor Abbe Land moved to ask City Attorney Mike Jenkins to investigate whether the city could enact such a ban. Her proposal got the support of Councilmember John Heilman. However, Councilmembers John D’Amico, John Duran and Jeffrey Prang opposed the motion.
Jenkins said that while he initially thought it would not be possible under state law for the city to bar campaign managers from lobbying the council, he now thinks it would be possible for the Council to bar lobbyists, which it has the power to regulate, from serving as campaign managers. The City of San Francisco, however, does ban campaign managers from lobbying its Board of Supervisors.
Mayor Land, explaining her support for the restriction, said: “I don’t think that my colleagues vote a certain way because their campaign consultant is also a lobbyist… (but) I am more concerned about how it appears to the public.” The council has come under criticism for permitting its members to accept campaign contributions from businesses with interests before the city and from city vendors who are represented by their campaign managers.
Councilmember D’Amico, who reacted angrily last March to a proposal by Heilman to bar campaign managers for lobbying the council, said tonight that he thought candidates should be able to hire whoever they want to manage their campaigns. D’Amico argued in March that Heilman’s proposal was an attack on his deputy, Michelle Rex, who formerly worked as a campaign consultant, although Heilman pointed out that his proposal would not have affected Rex.
Councilmember Duran said the fact that his campaign manager also represents clients who want to do business with the city has had no impact on his votes on city matters. “I have had many occasions to vote against Steve Afriat’s clients,” Duran said, referring to the man who, as consultant to the campaigns of every council member except D’Amico and a lobbyist for business interests including the Pacific Design Center, Ace Outdoor Advertising and Marriott hotels, has been a focus of the conflict of interest debate. Duran also said that Afriat is giving up the campaign management part of his business. Afriat, however, confirmed to WEHOville.com that he will continue to manage election campaigns although he is not currently representing Duran, who is campaigning for the Third District seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, or Prang, who is running for L.A. County Assessor.
The Council, addressing a report prepared by Heilman and Prang about campaign reform, also voted to:
- Not permit council members to raise additional money after an election if that would result in an increase in the current $10,000 limit on the money a council member can keep in his or her “officeholder” account. The officeholder account houses money left over after a campaign and can be used by council members to make donations to non-profit and political organizations.
- Ask the city staff to investigate the possible impact of moving the March City Council election to June or another time of year that might increase voter participation. Only 20 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the March 2013 West Hollywood City Council election.
- Ask the City Clerk to encourage but not require the electronic filing of campaign contribution reports. Such reports currently are published on the city’s website as PDF documents rather than in digital form, which makes it difficult for residents to easily analyze contributions from specific donors to specific candidates.
- Support efforts to establish a “vote-by-mail” system for council elections, which would have to be created by the state legislature. Mayor Land said she believed such a system would result in a large increase in voter participation.
- Require that vote-by-mail applications be sent directly to the City Clerk rather than to campaign managers, which currently is permitted.