Citing inflation, the state’s campaign finance watchdog agency is considering a proposal to raise the fundraising thresholds at which campaigns must report their financing, drawing some concerns from an advocate for fuller disclosure.
Currently, campaign committees and independent expenditure committees must report their fundraising and spending when they receive contributions of $1,000 or more in a calendar year. The state Fair Political Practices Commission staff is recommending that the panel support legislation that would raise that level to $2,000.
In addition, contributors must file special “major donor” reports disclosing all donations they make when they give $10,000 in a calendar year. The bill recommended by the FPPC staff would raise that threshold to $20,000.
The state Political Reform Act's "committee qualification thresholds have not been updated since at least 1987 and the proposed increases in the bill are intended to adjust the thresholds with the rate of inflation,” wrote Erin Peth, executive director of the FPPC in a memo to the panel.
She also said the current low thresholds “can be a barrier for those individuals who wish to participate, but who will not be raising or spending large amounts of money in connection with an election.”
The $2,000 level for campaign and independent expenditure committees would have little effect on state committees but could affect local elections where committees raise much lower amounts, according to Bob Stern, former general counsel for the FPPC and a co-author of the Political Reform Act of 1974.
“However, I would oppose raising the major donor limit from $10,000 to $20,000 since that is a large increase in the threshold,” Stern said. “Major donor reporting is important and the $20,000 amount would be too high.”
The legislation up for consideration by the FPPC is AB 594 by Assemblyman Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park). The panel meets March 19 to consider taking a position on the bill.
“The proposed increases, while below what an adjustment for inflation would be, are intended to recognize that the cost of a true grassroots campaign has increased over this time and would allow those campaigns to still operate without the burden associated with filings.,” Gordon said.