Campaign Reform on Chopping Block in Santa Monica: Council Plan Would Overturn Voter-Approved Ethics Law

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Council “Didn’t Even Consider” Real Reform Approved in Pasadena

Santa Monica, CA — Santa Monica is on the verge of eliminating a voter-approved anti-corruption law that bars city officials from taking kickbacks from companies that do business with the city while Pasadena, hardly a progressive bastion, is taking final action to strengthen and expand an identical measure.

“Santa Monica’s politicians want to restore their ability to take kickbacks from companies that do business with the city,” said Carmen Balber of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). “If Pasadena can embrace reform, Santa Monica should be a no-brainer. Instead, they’re engaging in a shameful attempt to throw out voter-approved rules that require the council’s ethical conduct.”

Santa Monica city attorney Marsha Moutrie offered the council political cover for not considering real reform at last week’s meeting. She offered to summarize Pasadena’s reforms so the council “wouldn’t have to explain to the public why you didn’t even consider this substantial effort.”

“If this goes to the ballot, every citizen of Santa Monica will know that the council is attempting a bait-and-switch — replacing the city’s strong anti-kickback protections, approved six years ago, with phony reform,” said Balber. “As Californians clamor for more protection from the special interests that dominate politics in California, this is an arrogant effort by local politicians to turn back time and eliminate reform.”

Santa Monica ignored a four-month effort by a Pasadena task force, chaired by former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, to strengthen the measure and preserve the voters’ goal of preventing kickbacks to city officials. Volunteers with the non-profit FTCR passed the groundbreaking reform in Santa Monica, Pasadena and three other cities in 2000.

The current law bars public officials from accepting a reward, in the form of campaign cash, gifts or a job, from a company they give a public benefit such as a city contract. The council’s proposal would allow them to accept these personal benefits for their official actions. Its provisions are virtually identical to current state laws and would roll back campaign reform in Santa Monica.

Santa Monica’s action is a far cry from the positive reform approved in the city of Pasadena, where the council will take the final vote on Monday to place a measure on the ballot that will strengthen that city’s identical conflict law.

Santa Monica must decide on Tuesday whether to place a measure on the November ballot. The council has fought the voter-approved Taxpayer Protection Amendment for six years. Its most recent failure was a lawsuit filed by the city to overturn the measure. The case was ultimately thrown out of court.

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Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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