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Assembly Passes Campaign Reform Measure

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reminded of the “black eye” given the Legislature by the conviction of five of its members on corruption charges, the Assembly on Monday narrowly approved a bill to ask voters to impose contribution and spending limits and authorize partial public financing of political campaigns.

A 41-30 vote, the bare minimum needed for approval, sent the measure sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward) back to the Senate for concurrence in Assembly amendments. It had passed the Senate by a 27-12 vote, but will undergo changes in a two-house conference committee.

The legislation also would ban the transfer of campaign contributions from one candidate to another.

Noting the five former lawmakers convicted as a result of an FBI sting, Assemblyman Louis Caldera (D-Los Angeles) urged a yes vote on the bill. “We should not forget those convictions and the black eye they have given us,” Caldera said.

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Veteran Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) said: “It is time to put the b.s. aside. Money poisons politics and corrupts this place. Public financing is the key to reform.”

Asked for comment on the bill’s passage, a spokeswoman for Common Cause, Ruth Holton, said: “I think it is essential to have campaign finance reform if we are going to prevent the kind of political corruption that was uncovered by the FBI. The question is, will the Legislature put out a bill that is tough enough to do the job?”

Though most legislators say they want campaign finance reform, the Legislature has repeatedly deadlocked over the issue. One political party always fears that the other party will gain an advantage. Governors have vetoed bills sent to their desks. The courts have struck down large portions of voter-approved campaign finance reform initiatives.

California legislators collected a record $33.4 million in contributions to line their campaign war chests during a non-election year in 1993. The old record was $27.4 million raised in 1991.

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“The cost of campaigning is outrageous,” said Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), who carried Lockyer’s bill on the lower house floor.

But Republican opponents attacked the proposed use of public funds to help finance campaigns.

“This bill asks the people of California to foot the bill for politicians campaigning for the state Legislature,” said Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra). “The cost to the people could run into millions upon millions of dollars. This money otherwise could be used for police protection, fire protection, emergency medical services, all of the services that the people are demanding.”

Forty Democrats and one Republican voted for the Lockyer campaign reform bill. All 30 no votes were cast by GOP members.

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The lone GOP defector was Assemblyman Stan Statham (R-Oak Run).


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