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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Fool's Gold - Proposed LA Law Is Less Than Meets the Eye

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As Patrick McGreevy reports in The Los Angeles Times, this week, State Senator Richard Alarcon launched an initiative drive to limit city contractors and developers to $100 contributions to candidates for city office. According to Alarcon, a candidate for mayor in 2005, the initiative will help "take our city back from the greedy, moneyed interests and the politicians who work for them."

Of course, when one of the other candidates triggered an exemption to the city's normal $1,000 contribution limit with a $50,000 loan to his campaign, Alarcon was one of the first to take advantage of the new $7,000 limits, raising nearly $50,000 from individual big donors. Talk about your moneyed interests and the politicians who work for them.

What appears on its face as blatant hypocrisy from Alarcon may have a more innocent explanation: many would-be reformers cannot see the forest for the trees when it comes to the problems of money in politics. Instead of focusing on the more pervasive corruption of democracy that happens when wealthy interests are allowed to dominate the political process, these reformers focus on Tammany Hall-style money-for-contracts corruption.

Or maybe it's just hypocrisy. Regardless, a better solution for Los Angeles than Alarcon's current proposal would be to limit all contributions to candidates to $100 per person, a method that's helped to level the playing field for candidates and voters at the state and local level around the country.

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