California legislative races heavily targeted by independent campaigns

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This year’s election is proving the justification for new rules approved last month by Gov. Jerry Brown on independent expenditure campaigns, according to the head of the state’s campaign watchdog agency.

In the last two months, candidates for the state Legislature have benefited from nearly $3.5 million spent by special interest groups independently of the contenders themselves, according to Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission. The commission has begun tracking the independent expenditures by labor and business groups on its website.

While the state limits how much a candidate can receive directly from a supporter, there is no limit on money spent by groups independently of the candidate to pay for billboards, television ads and mailers supporting or opposing a candidate.

“With independent expenditures, it is sometimes difficult for voters to track the true source of spending because frequently contributions are made to other independent expenditure committees, obscuring the identities of the original donors,” Ravel said. ‘Disclosure is the best tool available for the voting public.”


She noted that legislation signed by the governor last month and taking effect Jan. 1 will require independent campaigns to disclose more information on who is running and funding the campaigns.


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--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento