Council passes two “Clean Campaigns” bills

This afternoon, the City Council unanimously passed two of the three bills in the suite of “Clean Campaigns” ordinances aimed to reduce the influence of big money — and particularly corporate money — in local politics.

The first bill passed prohibits “foreign influenced” corporations from spending money in local elections: contributing to a campaign or PAC, or (after an amendment this afternoon) making direct expenditures. The definition of “foreign influenced” is controversial, however, setting the threshold at a single foreign national with as little as 1% ownership of a corporation, a group of foreign nationals with 5% ownership, or a foreign national with decision-making authority over the corporation’s political decisions. It will almost certainly be challenged in court.

The second bill passed adds additional transparency and reporting requirements for political advertising. This is not controversial and is well within the powers of government to regulate, as per established case law.

A third bill, which limits contributions to PACS to $5,000 for most individuals and organizations and $10,000 for “limited contribution committees,” is still being worked on in committee and is exepected to stay there until its original sponsor, Council President Gonzalez, returns from maternity leave at the end of March. Regardless of what form it ultimately takes, it too will almost certainly draw a legal challenge — one that is expected to eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court.