Campaign Finance Reform
6:03 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

St. Louis City Contemplates Campaign Contribution Limits

St. Louis aldermen have begun considering whether to limit the amount of money flowing into city politics.

The measure from Ald. Scott Ogilvie limits donations of all kinds to $3,000 for aldermanic races, and $10,00 to contests for board president, mayor and comptroller. The amounts are indexed to inflation, but they do not apply to candidates spending their own money.

"We just went through a mayoral campaign where I think a lot of voters in St. Louis were not happy with where the contributions were coming from," Ogilvie said of his measure, which is based on Kansas City's ordinance. "The purpose is to allow candidates to raise the necessary amount of money to run a campaign and communicate with voters and to do the other things we do with camp money, but to make sure that a small handful of donors can't dominate the conversation during an election."

None of the committee members opposed setting limits on contributions, but many, like Alderman Tom Villa, questioned if they would actually work.

For example, he said, there’s nothing to stop someone from transferring money from a race with no limits to run for an office with limits.

"I had the Villa for Representative committee. Then when you decide that you want to be president of the Board of Aldermen, you simply take those moneys and put it in Villa for President committee, and it just moves with you," he said.

And Ald. Jeffrey Boyd questioned whether the limits, which apply to both the primary and general elections, put candidates who have two contested races at a disadvantage.

Ogilvie admitted that there's no perfect bill, but says the conversation has to start somewhere.

The committee will vote on his legislation at a later date.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann