LOS ANGELES–A federal court judge on Tuesday denied a political committee’s request to overturn a 24-year-old city ethics law, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The ruling, seen as a boon for Los Angeles City Council candidate Paul Krekorian, was a sharp blow to the campaign of candidate Christine Essel, whose backers brought the lawsuit.
“I was very proud to defend the ethics laws that the voters of Los Angeles enacted and have relied upon for nearly a quarter century,” said Krekorian, who defended the ethics law. “Today we won a tremendous victory for transparency when the Federal Court agreed with my arguments and completely rejected the frivolous lawsuit brought by Chris Essel’s special interest supporters to overturn the City’s ethics laws.”
Special interest groups have spent more than $542,000 to boost Essel’s bid for the San Fernando Valley council seat of former Councilwoman Wendy Greuel in the last few weeks. Greuel is now city controller.
The group, Working Californians, which is co-chaired by the heads of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 and Local 18, filed the suit to challenge a 1985 city law stating that a political committee cannot accept contributions greater than $500 if it intends to use that money on an independent expenditure for a city candidate.
Working Californians claimed that the provision violated its free speech rights and asked the court to intervene immediately, the LA Times said.
Krekorian said the lawsuit had nothing to do with the 1st amendment and “was about nothing but concealing special interest money from the voters of L.A.”
U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson concluded that Working Californians had “not established a likelihood of success on the merits of its 1st Amendment claims.”
Pregerson said the group had not provided evidence that enforcement of the restrictions would “effectively thwart its ability to make independent expenditures” in the two weeks before the runoff, the LA Times reported. The ruling noted that the group had received contributions from just six sources since 2007 — including the two political action committees controlled by IBEW Local 18 and Local 11.
“Working Californians is free to solicit contributions from as many donors as it likes, and assuming that no individual contribution exceeds the city’s $500 threshold, it can spend as much as it likes,” the judge wrote.
“The outrageous amount of money pouring into the Second Council District from so-called independent expenditures by special interests is perhaps unprecedented in City history,” explained Krekorian.
“[Essel’s] voracious fundraising has featured visits to the offices of virtually every Downtown lobbyist, and the Ethics Commission is currently investigating an obviously illegal contribution she accepted from a lobbyist,” Krekorian revealed, adding that the ruling “completely vindicates the effort we made to protect the city ethics laws that the voters enacted a quarter of a century ago.”
“By filing this lawsuit, the Downtown power brokers proved that they aren’t satisfied just trying to steal this election for Essel–they want to hide their tracks too,” said Krekorian. “But this election will not be bought and paid for by the monied special interests–it will be decided by the voters whose lives will be affected by its outcome for years to come.”
“While Essel claims to be a City Hall reformer, and she presents proposals for strict ethics enforcement, she and her supporters continue to flaunt every reasonable expectation the voters have about campaign funding,” Krekorian said. “On December 8, I am confident voters will recognize that Chris Essel represents more of the same business as usual, and I am the only candidate that will fight for the kind of fundamental change that City Hall so desperately needs.”