Who is Sending Out those Campaign Mailers?

I’ve noticed that there seems to be a bit of confusion concerning financing in the CD-12 contest. Hopefully the following will help to understand the two major types of contributions.

One is a contribution to a candidate in that “is a payment that is made to a candidate or committee, or that is made at the behest of a candidate or committee.” When you access a candidate’s donation form online, you will be required to give your name, address (no PO boxes), your occupation (including stay at home parent and retired), and employer.

The other are called “independent expenditures.” These are not donations to a candidate. Instead, these are to organizations, often PACs, to produce mailers and other communications (such as calling voters), in support or against a candidate or issue. There are specific regulations involved, including the forms to be filled out along with a sample of the mailer. Each mailer or commercial is required to include a disclaimer with the group(s)’s name.

Per the Los Angeles ethics commission, which oversees municipal elections, an independent expenditure communication “is a political communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified City candidate or ballot measure or, taken as a whole, unambiguously urges a particular result in a City election. A communication is independent when it is not authorized, distributed, paid for, or behested by the affected candidate or committee.” These communications, usually a direct mail piece, a commercial, or a phone call, must include a disclaimer by the committee financing it: “Paid for by [committee’s name, address, and city]. Not authorized by or coordinated with a City candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate. Major funding provided by [top two contributors of at least $1,000 during the six months prior to the payment for the IE] in the amount of [cumulative amount of their contributions]. Additional information is available at ethics.lacity.org.” There’s another disclaimer for cases when it’s a person who isn’t acting as a committee.

All candidates, and their treasurers, for Los Angeles city offices are required to go through a campaign finance training from the the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. Included in this is the rules regarding independent expenditures. As each committee files the forms 57 and 496 for each communication, the candidates for that specific race are given copies of that information as well as a copy of the mailer, telephone script, etc. But the candidates can not veto or otherwise control the message in any way.

Last Saturday, when John Lee told an audience at a candidates forum that Loraine Lundquist received money from Sempra, that wasn’t the case at all. That was money for an independent expenditure, which she didn’t have any control over. As for the hedge fund manager Aaron Sosnick, he had given her a $800 (the cap) contribution (he had previously donated to Scott Abrams’ campaign during the primary). The $90,000 that was mentioned went directly to a group known as the “I Love LA Committee. Both the Sempra info as well as the contribution to the I Love LA committee are clearly on the ethics website section under “Independent Expenditures” and not as contributions to Dr. Lundquist’s campaign.

Another note to Lee’s comment regard Sosnick, is that he’s from out-of-state. In reality, he’s bicoastal, and often has donated to local environmental causes. And both candidates have received direct contributions from out of district and out of state donors.

On July 14th, the Los Angeles Times ran an article that mentioned that the union that represents workers at the Department of Water and Power, the IBEW Local 18, has been backing Lee. There was a mention that this group, The Working Californians Research Fund political action committee, had received “financial support from the fossil fuel industry.” The article didn’t explain that this more than $57,000 contribution in support of Lee falls in the independent expenditure category, and not a direct donation to Lee’s campaign.

There are other influencers contributing to the independent expenditures in support of John Lee. Among those donors are the Los Angeles County Business Federation (also known as Biz Fed) and the LA Area Chamber of Commerce, two groups which have received substantial donations from SoCalGas over the years, and in turn have publicly championed the reopening of Aliso Canyon, the gas storage facility operated by the gas company, and the site of the largest gas blowout in US history.

Here is the 2019 election guide for candidates: https://ethics.lacity.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2019-City-Candidate-Guide-20190125.pdf

Finally using her J-school degree for good. #CountdownToShutDown2020 Aliso Canyon