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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.

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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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