Behested Payments Ban Would Hurt, Not Help, Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, CA, May 14, 2019 – As the Los Angeles City Council considers a measure to ban so-called behested payments to nonprofits in the city, the Southern California office of Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy program is warning that such a step would have unintended consequences that could harm some of the city’s neediest communities. Bolder Advocacy has submitted a formal comment letter to the City Council opposing the move, which can be found here.

“This ban, while undoubtedly well-intentioned, is misguided and would have a very harmful impact on nonprofits’ ability to raise money for worthy causes,” said Nona Randois, California director for Bolder Advocacy. “It’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Our elected officials have a long tradition of making public appeals for contributions to charities from the Red Cross to the Food Bank to the Library. This proposed ban would curtail those so-called behested payments, and the result would be a loss of resources for services and organizations that really benefit the city as a whole.”

Behested payments occur when city officials ask private citizens, who are sometimes lobbyists, city contractors, or developers, to donate to nonprofits for the public good. As the Bolder Advocacy letter notes, “The proposed ban means elected officials can no longer ask many civically engaged individuals and institutions to support bettering our City. And this may lead to them not asking anyone to support these worthy causes.”

Bolder Advocacy notes that a similar proposal to ban behested payments was considered by ethics officials in San Francisco, but was rejected. Bolder Advocacy is urging city officials to remove the proposed ban from the overall Campaign Contributions and Behested Payments proposal currently under consideration, and believes that disclosure of behested payments, rather than an outright ban, is the right approach to resolve city residents’ legitimate concerns about transparency and preventing corruption. State law currently requires disclosure of behested payments in excess of $5000, and Los Angeles elected officials are subject to these requirements. A list of behested payments is readily available to the public.

Randois testified today at a public meeting of the City Ethics Commission on the proposed ban. Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy program is the leading expert on the legal framework for nonprofit advocacy efforts, providing definitive information, resources, and technical assistance that encourages nonprofit organizations to fully exercise their right to be active participants in the democratic process. Since 2004, Bolder Advocacy has worked with over 1,800 small, medium, and large nonprofit organizations in California. The Los Angeles office opened in 2014 to respond to a strong demand for services in Southern California.

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