Senate OKs Bill to Limit Legislative Campaign Financing

Associated Press

A political campaign bill that includes contribution and spending limits and partial public financing for legislative races cleared the state Senate on Monday with bipartisan support.

The vote on the bill by Sen. Bill Lockyer (D-San Leandro) was 24 to 6. Five Republicans joined 18 Democrats and an independent in voting for the bill. All the no votes were cast by Republicans.

Supporters of the bill cited public concern about sharply rising campaign costs and the political influence of major contributors.

"We have all become increasingly aware that money is the mother's milk of politics," Lockyer told his colleagues. "I respectfully suggest it's time to wean the baby."

Added another backer, Sen. Barry Keene (D-Benicia), "Is this a perfect proposal? No. But we've got to move a bill like this along if we're going to keep the confidence of the public."

Critics cited several reasons for opposing the bill. Sen. Ed Royce (R-Anaheim) contended that any campaign bill drafted by the Legislature would favor incumbents. "I think having a fox guard the henhouse is bad policy," he said.

"Do you want Common Cause to do it?" asked Sen. Newton Russell (R-Glendale), referring to a citizens group that is pushing an initiative some legislators consider worse than Lockyer's bill.

The Lockyer measure, similar to several that have died in the Legislature or been vetoed by the governor in recent years, proposes that a "qualified organization"--a group that receives contributions from at least 25 people and donates to at least five candidates--be permitted to give up to $5,000 per candidate per election. All other donors could give no more than $2,000 per candidate per election.

The bill would also provide partial public financing for general election campaigns of legislative candidates who agree not to exceed spending limits for primary and general-election campaigns.

The bill's supporters say that tying spending limits to public financing is the only way to limit spending under current court rulings.

The public financing would go to candidates who raised a certain amount--$30,000 for a Senate candidate and $20,000 for an Assembly nominee--on their own and have opponents on the ballot.

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