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Political parties in San Diego might have to look for other ways to funnel cash to candidates.

On June 4 city councilmembers will discuss whether to adopt an ordinance that would cap the amount that political parties can donate at $20,000 for citywide candidates and $10,000 for council candidates.

That's quite the blow, considering that during last year's election the Republican Party gave former councilmember Carl DeMaio $800,000 in campaign contributions while Democrats gave Mayor Bob Filner $237,500, says a report by San Diego's Ethics Commission.

The commission also found that the County GOP forked over more than $1 million in "member communications coordinated with a mayoral candidate," compared to $700,000 from the Democratic Party.

But political parties are not out of options if they decide to fight the ordinance. The voters will have no less than 30 days to strike down the ordinance by referendum, says Deputy City Attorney Catherine Bradley in a May 28 memo to city council.

"...The ordinance does not relate to the actual conduct of an election. Instead, the ordinance relates to campaign finance laws, only indirectly related to elections. Accordingly, an ordinance amending the Municipal Code relating to campaign finance may be passed by the Council not less than twelve days after introduction. Thereafter, the ordinance is effective “not less than thirty calendar days” from final passage. This will preserve the power of referendum to the people as required by the California Constitution..."

The 30-day waiting period will, however, also provide the parties with time to give cash to candidates. Next year's election cycle begins one day before the council hearing.

City Council will hear the item during the afternoon session on June 4.

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