Garcetti holds commanding lead in mayoral campaign fundraising

Latest campaign financing reports for city election candidates finds Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti with a substantial lead as he seeks re-election.
Latest campaign financing reports for city election candidates finds Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti with a substantial lead as he seeks re-election.
Grant Slater/KPCC

Contributions to city and school board candidates in Los Angeles have zoomed past $8 million, according to campaign finance reports filed Tuesday.

That number could still rise, as campaigns have until midnight to report how much they took in between October and the end of the year. The reports, filed with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, give an early indication of the financing strengths of the March 7 primary candidates.

In the mayoral race, incumbent Eric Garcetti has widened an already immense fundraising lead.

Garcetti's campaign had raised nearly $2.8 million by the end of 2016, the new data shows. That was a jump of half a million since the previous report.

Compare that to the closest challenger, Mitchell Schwartz, who has raised about $336,000 thus far — one dollar for every eight Garcetti has in contributions. Schwartz, considered Garcetti's most viable challenger, is a former campaign consultant who worked with Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

A number of other mayoral candidates will be on the ballot in March, but none has reported raising more than $100,000 thus far.

In two other citywide races, incumbent candidates are in even more commanding positions. No challenger to City Attorney Mike Feuer or Controller Ron Galperin has reported raising meaningful amounts of campaign cash. Feuer reported $682,000 in contributions through the end of 2016; Galperin had netted $447,000.

The race for an open seat in the 7th City Council District vacated by Felipe Fuentes could provide more drama that the citywide contests. There, voters will choose between 20 candidates on the ballot.

Just two of the 20, Monica Rodriguez and Karo Torossian, have netted six-figures in campaign contributions, according to the most recent data available. Rodriguez has received about $213,000 from donors, with Torossian just below that at $187,000.

Campaign cash goes towards everything from polling to yard signs to staffing costs.

Campaign finance reforms introduced in City Council

A group of City Council members on Tuesday proposed a series of reforms to the campaign finance system aimed at limiting the influence of deep-pocketed developers.

The group — Paul Krekorian, David Ryu, Paul Koretz and Joe Buscaino — want to bar real estate developers with projects under consideration by the city from contributing to candidates.

To do that, they'll have to figure out how to define exactly who is a developer. The Ethics Commission, the City Attorney and the Planning Department have been asked to come up with a definition.

The council members also introduced a motion to increase the amount of matching public funding provided to qualified candidates running for office. The moves are intended to counter embarrassingly low voter turnout in Los Angeles city elections.

"[W]hen it comes to campaign finance, the system we have in place today is failing us all," Krekorian said in a statement.

The proposals quickly became a campaign issue. Fifth District Councilman Paul Koretz supported the motions. His challenger in the district, Jesse Creed, quickly posted a video to Facebook where he called the move "one of the most cynical re-election ploys I've ever seen."

Their campaign reports show a relatively tight race, with Creed having raised about $251,000 through the end of 2016. Koretz had $362,000 in contributions.