Burlingame eyes campaign-spending cap

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An ordinance putting a cap on campaign contributions, an issue in the city since a relatively expensive 2005 election, will likely go into effect this year.

Campaign spending in recent elections has run on the high side for a city the size of Burlingame, where candidates on average spent more than candidates in its larger neighbor San Mateo, according to some city officials.

A proposed new ordinance, set to come before the City Council for approval tonight, would limit individual contributions to candidates at $500, with a proposed $1,000 limit for organizations and $12,000 on self-loans made by candidates to their own campaigns. If approved tonight, the new rules would take effect in April.

Mayor Terry Nagel said soon after she was elected in 2003 that spending caps should be a priority, particularly when the city saw some big-budget campaigns and a crowded playing field in 2005. On the other side of the coin, Councilwoman Ann Keighran, a newcomer in 2005, had expressed a desire to keep the campaign spending limits high enough so that challengers who don’t have the same name recognition as incumbents could stand a fair chance.

Nine candidates for City Council raised nearly $200,000 in the 2005 election, according to a report by City Attorney Larry Anderson. Candidates spent an average of $27,000 each in 2005, a figure that has ballooned significantly since 1997, when the average was $14,000 per candidate.

The council is taking the lead from other Peninsula cities, including Belmont and San Mateo, which approved caps on donations in 2004 of $500 from organizations, $250 on individual contributions and $15,000 in personal loans.

The council meets at 7 p.m. today in Council Chambers at City Hall, 501 Primrose Road.

tramroop@examiner.com

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