Campaign contribution limits approved by Pittsburgh Council

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Pittsburgh City Council approved new limits on campaign contributions today, in a tentative vote that could become final next week, potentially putting caps on donations by individuals, partnerships and political action committees for the first time.

Council amended legislation submitted by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, lowering the limits on donations to levels suggested by Councilman William Peduto.

If the legislation is passed finally and signed by the mayor, council candidates could take $1,000 contributions from an individual, and $2,000 from a political action committee, per election -- primary or general. Candidates for controller and mayor could take double those amounts.

Mr. Ravenstahl has said he supports the amendments, even though they were crafted by a frequent political foe in Mr. Peduto.

"This working together of the administration and Mr. Peduto I think really gives us a guideline to how we can accomplish very significant things in this city," said Councilman Ricky Burgess.

The limits would come off in a race if any candidate indicated that they planned to spend $50,000 or more of their own money on their campaign. Courts have ruled that government can't restrict a person's right to spend their own money on their own race.

The ordinance also was amended to have the city controller place online a database of all campaign contributions to city candidates.

The vote was unanimous, though some members expressed reservations.

Councilwoman Tonya Payne said she's "going to be squeezed" by the legislation, because African Americans and women can't typically raise as much money as white males. "I'm going to vote in favor simply because the people in the district asked me to vote for it."

The legislation was jointly proposed by Mr. Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, with the understanding the city and county would have to approve identical bills. Mr. Ravenstahl said he will support council's amendments but it's not clear whether Mr. Onorato supports them or whether the city and county still are striving for identical bills.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542.


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