By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, June 19th, 2008 at 4:14 pm in campaign finance.
Special interests have poured nearly $100 million of independent expenditures into statewide campaigns races since voters adopted direct candidate contribution limits in 2001, reports the state Fair Political Practices Commission.
So-called independent expenditures have grown significantly as outside groups seek to influence the outcome of elections without worrying about those pesky contribution limits.
“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 FPPC report says.
The FPPC’s report, Independent Expenditures: The Giant Gorilla in Campaign Finance, also offers details into the Top 10 groups when it comes to spending money on statewide campaigns. The list included groups advocating for former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides. It also includes political action committees for the California Chamber of Commerce, California Peace Officers Association, Indian tribes and other labor organizations. (This lovely gorilla picture comes from http://www.gotpetsonline.com/gorilla/gorilla-fact/gorilla-fact.html)
The $100 million does not, however, take into account the numerous independent expenditures in local races, which has become commonplace in East Bay contests and elsewhere in California has contribution limits have become more widely deployed.
Independent expenditures were made in the two Contra Costa County supervisor races, for example. Some candidates have even come to count on the influence of outside money even though they cannot, by law, coordinate or direct the expenditures of these groups.
Read more for the FPPC press release:
SACRAMENTO — A small number of well-funded special interests have poured nearly $100 million into “independent expenditures” benefiting candidates for state office since voters placed limits on the size of direct contributions to candidates.
The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission has updated its report on independent expenditures to include spending in the June 2008 primary election, which totaled $11,783,605. Combined with the $88,088,500 spent on independent expenditures from January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2006, the total for all independent expenditures spent on behalf of state and legislative candidates is $99,872,105.
The newly updated report, Independent Expenditures: The Giant Gorilla in Campaign Finance, provides information on the ten legislative races where independent expenditure spending was the highest in the June 2008 primary elections. Those contests include the 25th Senate District Democratic primary where independent expenditure spending totaled $1,782,901, the 3rd Senate District Democratic primary where IE spending totaled $1,445,155, and the 8th Assembly District Democratic primary where IE spending totaled $1,153,674.
“Increasingly, special interest contributors funnel their support for candidates through so-called ‘independent expenditure committees,’ rather than giving the money directly to candidates,” stressed Ross Johnson, Chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission. “Since independent expenditure committees can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, this trend thwarts the will of the voters who imposed contribution limits on candidates by overwhelmingly approving Proposition 34 on the November 2000 ballot.”
Independent expenditures pay for communications (e.g., a billboard, advertisement, mailing, television and radio commercials) that expressly advocate the nomination, election, or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, but which is not made to, or at the behest of, a candidate.
“What is most disturbing is the alarming emergence of new techniques identified in the report where candidate-specific independent expenditure committees are created that may signal candidates in advance of elections that there will be independent expenditures on their behalf,” Johnson noted. “The real losers in this explosive growth of independent expenditures are the voters of California because independent expenditure committees are getting better at masking the true source of their contributions.”
Limits were imposed on contributions made directly to candidates for legislative and statewide office by Proposition 34 passed in November of 2000. Contribution limits went into effect on January 1, 2001, for legislative candidates and November 6, 2002, for statewide candidates.
These limits do not apply to independent expenditures. These expenditures must be made completely “independent” of the candidate; no coordination can take place between the candidates or their campaigns and the entity that makes the independent expenditure.