CA Fair Political Practices Commission Should Require Greater Disclosure, Accountability, for Candidates’ Ballot Initiative Fundraising

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Rules Would Apply to All Ballot Measure Funds Controlled by Elected Officials
Santa Monica, CA — Political reform advocates at Consumer Watchdog urged members of the California Fair Political Practices Commission to approve a regulation considered today that would require candidates to disclose how money raised for ballot measures will be spent.
The rules under consideration by the state ethics board would require candidates to identify the issue or measures on which they plan to spend ballot measure funds they control, and implement greater disclosure of how that money is spent. Current rules allow politicians to raise unlimited amounts of money for ballot measures but do not require those funds be spent on actual initiatives.
“The current rule allows candidates to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on hypothetical initiatives they may or may not support at some indeterminate future date. This lack of accountability has allowed some candidate committees to take on the characteristics of unregulated slush funds,” said Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog. “Politicians should have to spend the money they raise for ballot measures on ballot measures. The proposed rules will bring candidate fundraising closer in line with the law.”
Regulations approved by the FPPC in 2005 that limited contributions to candidate-controlled ballot measure committees were overturned in court, which found that the FPPC did not have the power to limit candidate fundraising or spending on ballot measures. Today’s proposal would preserve that ability, but clarify reporting requirements to ensure the money is raised for, and spent on, legitimate measures.
Under the new regulations, candidate-controlled ballot measure committees currently designated “general purpose,” such as the “Dream Team” committee controlled by Governor Schwarzenegger, will be designated “primarily formed” and be required to identify the specific ballot measure or measures on which the committee plans to act. Schwarzenegger’s committee, for example, spent $4.9 million between January and June of 2008 but directed just $2.4 million to a specific purpose, support of Proposition 11. Similarly, former Senator Don Perata spent $286,000 between July and September of this year through his “Leadership California” ballot measure committee, but identified less than $20,000 of that spending with a specific ballot measure. The Oakland Tribune reported today that Perata transferred $1.5 million from this ballot measure committee to his legal defense fund.
“The courts have said candidates may raise unlimited money to spend on ballot measures, not that they may raise and spend unrestricted funds at will. The new rules would allow ballot measure activity but bar candidate fundraising into undeclared, undefined war chests already prohibited by law,” said Balber.
Download Consumer Watchdog’s letter to the Fair Political Practices Commission here.

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Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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