Small Donors Make Bigger Impact in LA Mayoral Race

la mayoral debateSmall Donors Make Bigger Impact in LA Mayoral Race, But 38% of Donors are from Outside LA City

California Common Cause released new analysis of the fundraising around the Los Angeles Mayoral race, finding that some of the campaign finance reforms implemented in 2013 are already re-shaping candidate fundraising to focus on individual and smaller donors. [i]

Individual Donors on the Rise

In 2013, new reforms to the Los Angeles public matching fund went into effect for the first time, incentivizing low dollar fundraising from individuals.  Contributions of $250 or less are now matched with public funds at a 2:1 rate (an increase from the prior 1:1 rate).

Leading up to the 2013 primary elections, there are more individual donors to the top mayoral candidates than there were in 2001 and 2005.[ii]  87% of donors in this race are individuals, compared to 77% at a similar point in the race in 2005, and 79% in 2001.

Small Donors on the Rise

In this race, 42% of donors gave $250 or less, compared to 31% in 2005 and 35% in 2001.[iii]  By contrast, to date, only 19% of donors gave the maximum of $1,300—but these “max donors” provided 41% of the money contributed to the candidates.

mayoral donationsLocation, Location, Location

The LA City Council delayed implementation until 2015 of the reforms that would have limited matching funds to only LA City resident donations, and would have created an in-district fundraising requirement of City Council candidates.  As such, Los Angeles candidate fundraising still draws heavily from outside the city and from 5 LA zip codes in particular.  For the 2013 primary, we’ve seen: 

  • 38% of donors come from outside Los Angeles City.
  • 13% of donors come from just five zip codes: 90210 (Beverly Hills), 90049 (Brentwood), 90024 (Westwood), 90046 (West Hollywood), and 90272 (Pacific Palisades). 4% come from 90210 alone.

Hidden Money

Independent expenditures still have a big impact and it’s tough to find out where the outside operations making these expenditures are getting their money. Outside spending in the mayor’s race has reached $3.2 million, compared to $9.3 million directly from the candidates.

 What Can Be Done?

First, California Common Cause advocates for strong matching funds systems that prioritize individual, small, and resident donors.

Second, California Common Cause supports efforts to pass a Constitutional Amendment that will allow full regulation of campaign spending, including independent expenditures.  In Los Angeles, we support the passage of Proposition C which will be on the May 21st ballot.  Similar measures have been passed in Colorado, Massachusetts, Chicago, San Francisco, and Portland. Now Los Angeles will be the largest electorate to weigh in. A “yes” vote on C would continue the national movement to put voters back in the electoral system, and get money out.

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[i] Analysis is based on donations to Garcetti, Greuel, James, Perry, and Pleitez as of February 16, 2013, conducted by Katelyn Leenhouts.

[ii] Based on donations to Becerra, Connell, Hahn, Soboroff, Villaraigosa, and Wachs as of March 3, 2001; and donations to Alarcon, Hahn, Hertzberg, Parks, and Villaraigosa as of February 19, 2005.

[iii] Some may have given to more than one candidate. Unitemized donors, giving less than $100, are not included. Dollar amounts are not adjusted for inflation.

Published by the LA Progressive on March 1, 2013
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