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Council Rules Committee Approves Increasing Donor Limits To $1,000

The City Council's Rules Committee gave tentative approval today to a package of amendments to local campaign laws, under which limits on individual donor contributions to candidates in citywide elections in San Diego would be doubled to $1,000 per election.

"It's substantially more expensive to run for mayor and city attorney when you have to reach voters citywide,'' said Stacey Fulhorst, executive director of the city's Ethics Commission, which developed the recommendations.

The average mayoral candidate spends four to six times more than City Council candidates, according to a staff report.

She said the donor limit for elections within districts would remain at the current $500, if the amendments are given final approval by the full City Council. The new regulations would take effect for the 2014 election cycle.

The changes stem from court rulings that ended litigation over the city's current campaign finance laws, according to Fulhorst.

The Ethics Commission also recommended allowing sole proprietors of businesses or organizations to contribute to candidates because their work and personal funds were frequently mixed in one account. Currently, no organization of any kind can make a contribution except political parties.

The proposals also include clarifying a $99 limit on cash contributions to be per election, not per transaction, and making adjustments to disclosure requirements in advertising.

Proposals on the thorny issue of establishing limits on contributions by political parties were not discussed at the meeting. County party organizations and the commission disagreed on the allowable levels of donations the last time the issue came before the committee.

A previous $1,000 limit for party donations was invalidated by the courts, so in the mayoral race right now, the county Republican Party can provide unlimited funds to Councilman Carl DeMaio, and the Democratic Party can do the same for Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, Fulhorst told City News Service.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer said the commission was moving in the "right direction,'' especially by focusing on disclosure practices.

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