Fundraising practice could be regulated;

Published on

‘Pledging’ has drawn fire because it delays reporting of campaign donations.

The Orange County Register (California)

SACRAMENTO, CA — Staff of the Fair Political Practices Commission will recommend today that the state consider regulating a controversial fundraising practice called pledging.

But in the same meeting, the commission also will consider declaring similar promises of electronic installment contributions exempt from public disclosure.

In August, The Orange County Register exposed how politicians can delay publicly disclosing who gives them money by accepting pledges instead of cash.

The Register, for example, found that Assemblyman Chuck DeVore held a fundraiser Aug. 15, but didn’t report any new contributions the next day because attendees promised to pay later.

Under the rules, the Irvine Republican — who is running against Democrat Michael Glover — doesn’t have to report contributions until the checks arrive days or weeks later.

This makes it impossible to gauge the fundraiser’s influence on DeVore’s August votes. The Register found 14 examples of lawmakers holding fundraisers in August but reporting no new contributions the next day.

The state has no firm plans for regulating pledging, but it’s on the agenda when the commission considers 2007 priorities today. Campaign finance watchdogs want pledging regulated, but say the commission could make things worse by changing the installment rule.

“It’s almost as if they’ve got two different staff members working on this,” said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles and former general counsel to the commission.

Commission spokesman Jon Matthews said that the installment change has nothing to do with pledging and reiterated the group may consider pledging regulations.

“It’s apples and oranges,” Matthews said.

The installment proposal seeks to revise the definition of a promise subject to disclosure. Pledges already are exempt. This would further exempt electronic installment payments.

An electronic installment payment is when a contributor using a credit card promises to give a politician $200 a month for five months. Under current rules, the total value of the contribution — in this case, $1,000 — must be reported in one lump sum when the first payment is received.

Under the proposal, each $200 contribution would be reported separately.

Campaign finance watchdogs say this makes it easier for politicians to delay revealing how much money they take from special interests.

“At the end of the legislative session this year, we witnessed a disturbing practice of politicians accepting secret contribution pledges from special interests,” said Doug Heller of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

“It’s pretty shocking; the FPPC proposal would extend that secrecy rather than shed more light on special-interest influence.”

But Carla Wardlow of the Fair Political Practices Commission said the change actually provides for greater transparency, noting that a contributor who promises to give, say, $10 a month for nine months, could decide to stop the payments after the first couple of months.

Then the total wouldn’t be correct.

“I think it actually could be misleading to say we received $90 on Jan. 9, but we actually got $10,” she said.

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.

Latest Videos

Latest Releases

In The News

Latest Report

Support Consumer Watchdog

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, press releases and special reports.

More Releases