City Council Votes to Increase Campaign Spending Limits

The Beverly Hills City Council voted 4-1 to increase optional campaign spending limits ahead of the 2024 election. The vote came at the council’s formal meeting on Oct. 17. Candidates on the Beverly Hills municipal ballot who agree to the voluntary limits had previously been allowed to accept a maximum of $80,000 in campaign contributions, with individual donations limited to $450 each. The ordinance just passed raises the overall ceiling to $100,000, and allows people or entities to give as much as $500 per donation.

The old limits had been in place since 2014, following an ordinance approved in 2012. An ad hoc committee including Mayor Dr. Julian Gold and Councilmember Lili Bosse recommended raising the caps on campaign spending to account for inflation and general increases in costs over the past decade.

“I was very comfortable with this,” Gold said. “I don’t know if we have to address this every year, but certainly every decade.”

Vice Mayor Lester Friedman and Councilmember Sharona Nazarian supported the ad hoc liaisons’ findings. The sole vote in opposition came from Councilmember John Mirisch, who argued that existing limits were sufficient to fund a campaign in a city the size of Beverly Hills, which had over 21,700 registered voters as of July.

“I don’t think those who have the biggest megaphones deserve to win,” Mirisch said. “I think those with the best arguments and positions do. And condoning money in politics, in some ways, is part of the problem. So, I would love to see publicly financed elections.”

Prior to the council’s discussion on the matter, City Clerk Huma Ahmed reported that 15 letters opposing a rise in campaign spending limits had been submitted. Some residents were concerned about receiving a “deluge of fliers,” Ahmed said while summarizing their comments. Many said they were “tired of seeing candidates receive contributions from wealthy individuals and organizations with direct interests in matters before the council,” she added.

Candidates who accept the optional limits will have the cost of distributing their candidate statements via the Los Angeles County Registrar’s office covered by the city of Beverly Hills. That cost is $700 for publication in English, $1400 for English and Spanish, and $279.60 for online postings in countywide channels.

Those who refuse to accept the cap will have to pay those fees on their own but will be able to post candidate statements on the city’s websites for free. And their donors will be limited to contributions of $150 each.

“We acknowledge the fact that there have been people who have spent well over $100,000 and lost, and people who have spent well south of $80,000 and won the election,” Bosse said.

The Beverly Hills municipal election will coincide with the 2024 Primary on March 5. There are no ballot measures for voters to consider this year. But two City Council seats, currently held by Gold and Bosse, will be up for grabs.