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State Tightens Scrutiny On Candidates And Spending Groups

Candidates for political office in California will need to be more careful about their interactions with the outside groups that support them. A state election board passed new rules Thursday to tighten scrutiny.

Independent groups can spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns, but they can’t collaborate with candidates, who have strict spending limits.

Jodi Remke, chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, says candidates have figured out how to skirt the law.

"Independent expenditures have increased eight-fold in the last 10 years," Remke says. "Candidates and their committees know this is where to go, so they’re going to do what they can do encourage independent spending."

The commission passed the new rule unanimously. It says that if candidates fundraise for outside groups set up to support them, if campaign staff jump to those groups, or if they share consultants--and it's within 12 months of an election--they have to prove no coordination occurred.

Political attorney Richard Rios argued the time frame is burdensome for candidates.

"The crux of the activity doesn’t take place twelve months out," Rios says. "It takes place a lot closer to the election."

Remke was skeptical.

"We have candidates who have started committees for 2018," says Remke.

The commission expects the new rule to be in effect for the 2016 election.