Lawmakers ride out-of-district money wave

California lawmakers over the past three years raised 79 percent of campaign funds from outside their districts, according to a new study by the data-crunching wizards at Berekeley-based nonpartisan nonprofit MAPLight.org.

MAPLight.org (that’s “MAP” as in “Money In Politics”) found California legislators serving as of Aug. 31, 2009 – 79 Assembly members and 40 Senators – raised $97.9 million in campaign funds from January 2007 through March 2010, with $77.5 million coming from outside the district. About $11.9 (12 percent) came from in-district, while the remaining $8.6 million (9 percent) couldn’t be definitively located.

More than half of the lawmakers (68 out of 117 members, or 58 percent) raised 80 percent or more of their campaign funds from outside their districts; 19 lawmakers raised 90 percent or more of their funds from outside their districts.

“Not a single legislator in California raised the majority of their campaign funds from in-district, where their voters live.” MAPLight.org Executive Director Daniel Newman said in a news release. “Instead of a voter democracy, we have a donor democracy.”

“With out-of-district fundraising at a staggering 80 percent, the problem is not with a few bad apples, but with a rotten barrel,” he said. “This report shows that our campaign finance system is broken. This remote control system works well for wealthy interest groups, but not for voters.”

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation stacked up in percentage of contributions from out of district, and rank among the 119 lawmakers surveyed:

  • Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose – 94.0 percent (#5)
  • Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley – 92.7 percent (#10)
  • State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro – 89.1 percent (#21)
  • Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, San Francisco – 87.8 percent (#29)
  • Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Newark – 87.5 percent (#33)
  • State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco – 85.5 percent (#40)
  • State Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose – 85.4 percent (#43)
  • Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City – 83.2 percent (#54)
  • Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch – 82.9 percent (#56)
  • Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr., D-San Jose – 82.5 percent (#59)
  • Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda – 80.4 percent (#64)
  • Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino – 80.0 percent (#68)
  • Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo – 79.2 percent (#72)
  • Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis – 76.9 percent (#79)
  • Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa – 74.7 percent (#85)
  • State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord – 74.5 percent (#87)
  • Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael – 72.5 percent (#91)
  • Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley – 67.4 percent (#100)
  • State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto – 63.4 percent (#102)
  • Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – 62.1 percent (#105)
  • Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo – 62.0 percent (#106)
  • State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – 58.9 percent (#110)
  • State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berekeley – 57.9 percent (#112)
  • And, in case you’re wondering where the money comes from, the top 15 ZIP codes of contributions to legislators were:

    1 Sacramento, CA 95814 — $23,149,034 (23.66%)
    2 San Francisco, CA 94105 — $2,034,877 (2.08%)
    3 Sacramento, CA 95833 — $1,408,211 (1.44%)
    4 Los Angeles, CA 90020 — $1,395,635 (1.43%)
    5 Burlingame CA, 94010 — $1,280,137 (1.31%)
    6 Los Angeles, CA 90071 — $1,054,345 (1.08%)
    7 Newport Beach, CA 92660 –$972,717 (0.99%)
    8 Sacramento, CA 95811 — $843,928 (0.86%)
    9 Sacramento, CA 95816 — $839,730 (0.86%)
    10 Los Angeles, CA 90017 — $741,449 (0.76%)
    11 Oakland, CA 94612 — $698,200 (0.71%)
    12 Sacramento. CA 95834 — $669,150 (0.68%)
    13 Pasadena, CA 91101 — $625,373 (0.64%)
    14 Los Angeles, CA 90010 — $621,677 (0.64%)
    15 San Francisco, CA 94111 — $583,888 (0.60%)

    MAPLight.org is among supporters of Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, which would try out a system of public financing of election campaigns in the 2014 and 2018 elections for Secretary of State, funded by an increase in lobbyist registration fees.


    Saving $25 million… but losing $11.2 billion?

    The California Medical Association is urging state lawmakers to roll back eligibility restrictions on Medi-Cal, the state’s health-care program for the poor, in order to take advantage of $11.2 billion in federal funding available from the economic stimulus act signed yesterday by President Barack Obama.

    The legislation says a state’s eligibility and renewal procedures for the program can’t be more limiting than they were on July 1, 2008. But as part of the state budget deal enacted last September, California required that children report on their eligibility for Medi-Cal twice a year instead of once a year; it was a cost-cutting measure, expected to save the state $25 million this fiscal year. Critics said the added paperwork would lead to more than 58,000 California kids losing their Medi-Cal coverage this year – and more than 260,000 by the end of 2011 – while forcing counties to pick up more of their health-care costs.

    This must be rolled back if California is to get the higher federal reimbursements for Medi-Cal – an increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages from October 2008 through the end of 2010 – under the economic stimulus legislation.

    “This is another great opportunity for state lawmakers to maximize federal assistance,” said CMA president Dr. Dev GnanaDev. “Restoring Medi-Cal’s eligibility rules makes smart fiscal sense and means more Californians will receive the health care they need.”

    State Senate Health Committee chairwoman Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, has been tied up all day today in the state budget fracas, but sent me this statement tonight:

    “I absolutely support eliminating any hurdles to bringing money to California. In fact, I am introducing legislation to repeal the semi-annual eligibility reporting requirement for children so that we can bring in the approximately $11 billion that the federal stimulus bill holds for California’s Medi-Cal program.”

    “This money is desperately needed to help California’s growing number of unemployed.”

    “I will do whatever is necessary including introducing additional legislation to implement other provisions of the federal stimulus that could bring us up to $14 billion in much needed health care funding. Californians deserve to benefit from the President’s stimulus plan.”


    Steinberg names state Senate committee chairs

    State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento – how weird not to be writing “Don Perata!” – rolled out his committee chair appointments today:

  • Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego: Appropriations Committee
  • Ron Calderon, D-Montebello: Banking & Finance Committee
  • Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego: Budget and Fiscal Review Committee
  • Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino: Business, Professions & Economic Development Committee
  • Gloria Romero, D-East Los Angeles: Education Committee
  • Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley: Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee
  • Alex Padilla, D-San Fernando Valley: Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee
  • Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto: Environmental Quality Committee
  • Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood: Governmental Organization Committee
  • Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara: Health Committee
  • Carol Liu, D-Pasadena: Human Services Committee
  • Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro: Judiciary Committee
  • Mark DeSaulnier, D-Martinez: Labor and Industrial Relations Committee
  • Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa: Local Government Committee
  • Fran Pavley, D-Augora Hills: Natural Resources & Water Committee
  • Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana: Public Employees and Retirement Committee
  • Mark Leno, D-San Francisco: Public Safety Committee
  • Lois Wolk, D-Davis: Revenue and Taxation Committee
  • Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach: Transportation and Housing Committee
  • Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, continues as assistant Pro Tem, and the Agriculture and Veterans Affairs committee chairs haven’t been named yet.

    Let’s take a spin through the Bay Area appointments, shall we?

    Although Hancock had chaired the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, it seems a natural fit for her to take the Senate Elections committee now because she has been a champion of campaign finance reform. Her AB 583, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act signed into law Sept. 30, creates a pilot project in which the 2014 and 2018 candidates for Secretary of State (SOS) will be eligible to have their campaigns funded mostly with public money if they agree not turn away most private contributions and if they collect a specified number of $5 contributions.

    Simitian already chaired the Environmental Quality Committee and Corbett already chaired Judiciary in the last session, so no changes there.

    Alquist takes over the health committee from the term-limited-out Sheila Kuehl, who had used that post to crusade for universal, single-payer health care, twice vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (SB 840 of 2005-06 and SB 840 of 2007-08). Alquist had co-authored Kuehl’s bills, and opposed the plan put forth by Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders last year. See where this is headed?

    DeSaulnier takes over Labor and Industrial Relations from the ousted Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, defeated in her primary by Mark Leno. It could be an interesting place to be if Senate Democrats again try – as Perata did in the last two sessions, meeting vetoes both times (SB 815 of 2005-06 and SB 1717 of 2007-08 – to restore permanently disabled workers’ workers compensation insurance benefits that were slashed in 2004.

    And Leno – who chaired Assembly Public Safety before running Assembly Appropriations – gets Senate Public Safety, formerly chaired by Romero. Will he use the post as a bully pulpit for pushing prison reform, as she did?


    Committee to hear bills on wrongful convictions

    The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice — a 15-member panel created in 2004 to studying the state’s past failures leading to wrongful convictions or death sentences — is rallying support for a trio of bills that’ll be heard Tuesday by the state Senate Public Safety Committee addressing false confessions, false informant testimony and mistaken eyewitness identifications.

    Commission chairman John Van de Kamp, a two-term former state Attorney General and 1990 Democratic gubernatorial primary candidate, says the bills “will protect the police, defendants, victims and the state of California from wrongful convictions.”

    SB 756, authored by Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas, D-Leimert Park, would require the Attorney General to develop new guidelines for conducting suspect line-ups, including using “fillers” who are similar in appearance to the suspect as well as separating multiple witnesses. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, last year; Ridley-Thomas reintroduced it after tweaking it to meet concerns expressed in the governor’s veto message.

    SB 511, authored by Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, would require electronic recording of police interrogations in order to help put an end to coerced confessions. “California would not be the first state to enact this critical legislation and in fact Santa Clara County has implemented these reforms successfully for years,” Alquist said in a news release. Again, Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year, and Alquist reintroduced it after tweaking it based on the veto message.

    SB 609, authored by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, would seek to curb false testimony by jailhouse informants — who have strong motivation to lie in return for lenience — by requiring corroborating evidence for all such testimony.

    Appearing at tomorrow’s hearing will be Timothy Atkins of Los Angeles, who spent 20 years in state prison after being wrongfully convicted — based on mistaken eyewitness testimony and false informant testimony — of second degree murder and two counts of robbery; he has been exonerated, and went free in February. Also present will be Harold Hall of Los Angeles, who spent 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit as a result of a false confession and jailhouse informant testimony, and Arthur Carmona of Garden Grove, who was 16 years old when wrongfully convicted based on mistaken eyewitness identification.