Palm Springs City Council to discuss possibility of setting a local campaign contribution limit

PALM SPRINGS — Is it time for Palm Springs to establish its own campaign contribution limit? That is a question the City Council will debate when it meets today, Thursday, May 6.

Setting the stage for the discussion is Assembly Bill 571 (AB 571 ), which amended the Political Reform Act to create a default campaign contribution limit for City Council candidates, effective Jan. 1, 2021. The default local limit is the same as
the limit for specific elective State office candidates (e.g., State Assembly or Senate) — currently set at $4,900 per election.

The Fair Political Practices Commission adjusts the limit in January of each odd year based upon the Consumer Price Index CPI. However, AB 571 authorizes a city, by ordinance or resolution, to set its own local limits that are higher or lower than the default limit.

The City Council may decide to go in one of at least three directions, according to City Attorney Jeffrey Ballinger and City Clerk Anthony J. Mejia. They are:

1. Do Nothing. Under this scenario, as of January 1, 2021, the State default campaign contribution limit of $4,700 from one individual per election shall be imposed on those running for elective city office. The FPPC will take responsibility for enforcing the default limit until such time as the City Council adopts a local limit and local enforcement mechanisms.
2. Set Its Own Limit – Whether Higher or Lower. As noted above, if the City Council follows this route, it will need to determine the local penalties and enforcement mechanisms. AB 571 does not permit the FPPC jurisdiction to enforce locally established campaign contribution limitations.
3. Investigate Other Campaign Finance Regulations. Provide Direction to Staff and City Attorney to Research and bring back additional campaign finance regulations, similar or additional to those discussed above.

Here’s a snapshot of what some other Valley cities are doing:

  • Cathedral City Local Contribution Limit: $2,500, adopted October 2020
  • Desert Hot Springs Accepting the State Contribution Limit: $4,700
  • Palm Desert Directed staff to return to City Council between January-April 2021

AB 571 also:

  • Provides that the State default contribution limit does not apply to a campaign opposing the qualification and election on recall measures, however, a city may set a local contribution limit on such activities;
  • Allows a candidate for city office to carry over campaign funds to pay the expenses of a subsequent election for that same office, except that a city may prohibit this practice in its local contribution limit; and
  • Does not apply limits to a local candidate’s use of personal funds for their own campaign.


Image Sources

  • Palm Springs City Hall: Shutterstock