Political parties in California would no longer be able to give unlimited money to candidates for state and local races under a proposal announced this week by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Marin County.
Individuals, unions and corporations currently can give a maximum of $4,200 per election to a candidate. There’s no cap, however, on what political parties can give.
“Sacramento needs to stop finger pointing at Washington to reverse Citizen’s United and start taking steps here in California to stop unlimited campaign contributions that lack disclosure,” Levine said in a press release. “We need to look ourselves in the mirror and stop waiting for Congress, where we know nothing will get done.”
Nicolas Heidorn of Common Cause, which advocates for open government, says wealthy donors get around the $4,200 limit by funneling money through political parties to candidates of their choice.
“When we elect people to office, we expect they’re going to put the public interest first,” Heidorn said. "When they’re entirely dependent on just a few donors, there’s a real risk and in many cases a reality that they’ll put the interests of those special interests above the interests of the constituents who they swore an oath to."
Political parties have been able to give unlimited money since Prop 34 passed in 2000. The measure put contribution limits on individuals, but did not cap the amount parties could spend.
Levine says he’ll formally introduce a bill in December when the Legislature reconvenes.
Robert Stern, former president of the Center for Government Studies, said he supports closing the loophole. But, he said in an interview that he’s not optimistic state lawmakers will pass a bill to restrict party spending.“It will take a ballot initiative to get this through,” Stern added.
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