Big bucks flow to Perata health care campaign

Sen. Don Perata launched an early salvo this week in the air war to revamp California’s health care system. But his pre-emptive strike does more than just push health care reform: It exploits a campaign loophole that allows the Senate leader to continue to raise money in unlimited sums, and get his face on television without restrictions from California’s campaign finance laws.

The ad is the latest example of the state’s ever-growing campaign-industrial complex, and a growing trend of finding creative ways to keep the campaign money flowing.

The strategy mirrors the moves Perata made beginning in late 2005, when he took to the airwaves to push his infrastructure plan. To raise money for those ads, Perata created an account, Rebuilding California, which eventually raised nearly $7 million, according to the latest records at the Secretary of State’s office.

Unlike money donated to Perata’s personal political account, the money raised for this issue advocacy is not restricted by California’s campaign spending laws.

“There is one set of rules for candidate committees. There is a whole other set of rules for ballot committees and issue committees,” said Perata campaign spokesman Paul Hefner. “It fully complies with the rules and restrictions for those kinds of committees.”

But Common Cause’s Ned Wigglesworth says while technically legal, and not uncommon, these types of issue advocacy committees controlled by candidates are meant to skirt fundraising restrictions.

“It’s a way around the contribution limits,” he says. “It’s certainly against the spirit of Proposition 34

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