CA Special Interest Groups Skirt Fundraising Law

SACRAMENTO (AP) - Corporations, labor unions, Indian tribes and other special interests have sharply increased their campaign spending in California by skirting voter-approved contribution limits and plowing their money into independent expenditures.

The Fair Political Practices Commission said Tuesday that $88 million had gone to independent campaigns for and against state candidates between 2001 and 2006. Of that, $63 million was spent by just 25 interest groups.

If the same limits that cap direct candidate donations also covered independent expenditures, those groups would have been able to spend only $1.3 million in the same period, the FPPC said in its report.

Contributions made directly to state candidates are limited by Proposition 34, a measure approved by lawmakers and voters in 2000.

Contribution limits for most donors range from $24,100 per election for candidates for governor to $3,600 per election to candidates for the state Legislature.

Courts have blocked efforts to limit independent expenditures, which are supposed to be made without being coordinated with a candidate.

"The emergence of independent expenditures has thwarted the will of the people, dramatically undermined California's campaign finance laws and doubtlessly influenced the outcome of numerous statewide and legislative elections," the report said.

The FPPC's staff is recommending that the commission adopt regulations to help voters determine who is making independent expenditures. That would include requiring mailers and ads paid for
with independent expenditures to list their largest donors first.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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