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The Real Deal Los Angeles

LA City Ethics Commission OKs proposal to ban developer contributions to city pols

Law would upend a longstanding financial relationship between developers and city officials
February 20, 2019 12:00PM

LA City Ethics Commission President Melinda Murray and City Hall (Credit: Wikimedia)

With an FBI probe into potential ethics violations involving real estate deals swirling around Los Angeles City Hall, the city’s own Ethics Commission has taken a major step towards barring developers from donating to elected officials.

The Ethics Commission voted on Tuesday in favor of a proposal that would ban donations from developers to political candidates and officeholders, as well as their associates and all non-individuals, including companies, according to the Los Feliz Ledger.

Such a law would upend the typical cozy relationship developers have with city officials. Developers vying for city contracts or approvals on large projects often donate dollars to officials with decision-making power over those approvals.

It would also bar any lobbyists or prospective city contractors who have lobbied a city official in the last year from donating to “pet charities” at the request of a city official. That’s a common practice at City Hall and is central to an FBI investigation of alleged misconduct by L.A. Councilmember Jose Huizar and others.

City officials have received nearly $50 million in such payments since 2014. Mayor Eric Garcetti received $40 million of that.

The measure was proposed by Councilmember David Ryu, who first proposed it in 2017. The measure died in committee over concerns it limited free speech in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The ethics commission vote moves the proposal back to the City Council’s Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations committee. An approval there would send it to the full City Council for consideration. Council President Herb Wesson chairs the committee. One of his deputies is of interest to the FBI in its investigation of alleged pay-to-play between developers and City Hall officials. [Los Feliz Ledger] — Dennis Lynch