Lawmakers say “no thanks” to real estate money in campaign finance proposal

From left: Council members Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz, and David Ryu
From left: Council members Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz, and David Ryu

Five Los Angeles City Council members are banding together in an attempt to prohibit real estate developers from making political contributions while their projects are under city review.

In a series of submitted motions, council members David Ryu, Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian, Mike Bonin, and Joe Buscaino urged the city’s Ethics Commission to draft the necessary legislation, the Los Angeles Times reported. The proposals would bar developers from making donations to politicians and political causes during and before the approval process for their projects.

Packaged as campaign finance reform, the initiative comes in the wake of increased scrutiny on political giving from real estate stakeholders. An October L.A. Times investigation found that a developer who sought approval from the city to build a $72 million residential project funneled $600,000 to local politicians through a wide gamut of associates.

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Housing advocates — including backers of the controversial Measure S — have long lamented the often opaque relationship between developers and city officials through political giving.

The proposals would also create a definition of “developer” that could include both contractors and subcontractors, as well as a requirement for additional disclosure in donations from non-individual entities.

Current law already bans political donations from companies that are bidding on city contracts as well as from registered lobbyists.

“The best way to restore trust in government is to avoid even the appearance of a conflict,” Councilmember David Ryu said in a statement Tuesday. “By introducing sweeping reforms, we will work to restore Angelenos’ faith in the City’s ability to fairly review and approve major development projects.” [LAT]Cathaleen Chen