Politicians’ fund-raising pegged at $14,354 per hour since 2000

When California voters approved Proposition 34 in 2000, they thought they were limiting the influence of money in state politics.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

Candidates have raised more than $1 billion, according to a new study by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

“The $1,006,638,463 directly raised by candidates works out to $344,503 per day or $14,354 per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year (366 in leap years). There has been a proliferation of campaign committees since the enactment of Proposition 34. Candidates and officeholders have created committees that have no contribution limits, such as candidate-controlled ballot measure committees and legal defense fund committees, which allowed them to circumvent contribution limits,” FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson said in a written statement accompanying the new report.

The study was entitled, “The Billion-Dollar Money Train.”

Of the more than $1 billion raised, legislative candidates who have been under the Proposition 34 restriction for four election cycles accounted for about 58 percent of the total. With one full election cycle and the gubernatorial recall election of 2003 under the Proposition 34 limits, statewide candidates accounted for 42 percent of the total money raised.

Contributions into candidate-controlled ballot measure committees increased more dramatically from 2001-02 to 2005-06.
In November 2000, for the fourth time in 12 years, California voters overwhelmingly approved another campaign finance reform proposal. Proposition 34, which is still in effect today. The measure placed limits on the amount of money candidates for state and legislative office could accept directly into their campaign committees. Those limits, pegged to inflation, went into effect on Jan.1, 2001, for legislative candidates and on Nov. 6, 2002, for statewide candidates.

Currently, they are $3,900 per candidate and up to $25,900 to a candidate for governor.

The report documented the “staggering amount of special interest money raised in California,” John said.

The donations also reflect the varied methods by which candidates are able to circumvent Proposition 34.

Those include:
–Directing donations to old campaign committees.
–The use of a committee that was created for an office other than the one being sought
–Candidate-controlled ballot measure committees.
–So-called “behested payments” by special interests to a charity of the politician’s choice.
–Legal defense funds.
–Officeholder accounts.

The study also noted that the infusion of large amounts of cash has jaundiced the public’s perception of Sacramento, noting the findings of a 2008 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

When asked whether “state government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves, or (is it) run for the benefit of all the people?” two-thirds of more than 2,000 people who responded said it was “run by a few big interests.”

About three fourths of the $1 billion-plus raised – more than $721 million – went to election and reelection campaigns, about $150 million went to ballot measures and some $110 million was raised by independent expenditure committees.

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: