TO: Mayor and City Council
FROM: City Staff
SUBJECT: Supplemental Information Regarding Campaign Reform and Public Financing for Candidates for Elective Office
DATE: June 11, 2002
This report responds in part to a motion made by the City Council at its December 11, 2001, Council Meeting related to a discussion on Campaign Financing Restrictions, and also supplements the campaign reform ordinance prepared by the City Attorney and listed on the June 11th agenda. A copy of the minutes for that item is attached.
Council directed staff to investigate the possibility of providing some kind of public support to candidates running for elective office and to return with recommendations after the 2002 election cycle. Staff plans to conduct research on what other government entities may be doing regarding this subject, and return to Council after this fall’s municipal election with options and possible recommendations.
However, at this time staff would like to provide the following information on existing policy and practice, in which the activities undertaken may be considered a type of public financing:
The State Election Code provides for the imposition of a $25.00 candidate filing fee, and many cities require such a fee, the City of Santa Monica does not have this requirement. No records have been found to indicate whether the City has ever charged this particular fee, but staff proposes that this policy has been in place for at least the last twenty years.
Although not related to candidates, but for your information, the Elections Code also provides for establishing a maximum of $200 filing fee when proponents file a notice of intent to circulate a petition for an initiative. The City of Santa Monica does not require such a fee, and the absence of records suggests that this policy has also been in place for many years. A few months ago, staff conformed the Municipal Code to existing policy by making a provision for no filing fee required.
The Election Code provides for candidate reimbursement of the cost of printing their respective statements on the voter’s information pamphlet, and of the cost of translating and printing the statements into a second language. This pamphlet is distributed to every voter in the jurisdiction a few weeks prior to the election. The approximate cost of printing a candidate statement in English is $375, the cost of translating into a second language such as Spanish is $125, and of printing it in the second language an additional $375. In some cities, the candidate pays for the entire cost; in others, the municipality contributes part of the cost, such as printing it in English and requiring the candidate to pay for the translation and the foreign language printing; in yet other cities, the municipality contributes a base amount, say $200, or $300, and the candidate pays for the remaining balance. Finally, in some cities such as Santa Monica, the municipality pays for all the candidate statement costs.
Information Services Division advises that the cost of posting the statement on the City’s website is minimal. The approximate cost for the actual posting is about $5.00, with the network costs being less than $1.00 for a four-month period.
If a candidate wanted to obtain an Internet service provider in order to put his/her statement on a website, the cost for the candidate, as estimated by Information Systems Division would be a minimum of $8.00 per month, probably more. An added non-quantifiable value is that with the City hosting the site for all candidates, the statements are easily found and available, and subject related.
CityTV estimates that each candidate receives approximately three hours of airtime over the course of a campaign season, including the live candidate call-in program and the replays, the League of Women Voters-sponsored candidate forums and replays, and the candidate interviews and replays. If this airtime were purchased from Adelphia Media as 240 thirty-second spots, aired on various cable networks, the cost would range between $9,000 and $14,000.
In conclusion, based upon the above figures, it is estimated that the City contributes between $10,000 and $15,000 to each candidate running for office at every election, and that this amount may be considered a type of “public financing.”