FPPC Says Prop. 208 Won’t Apply to Funds Already Raised
Over the objections of sponsors of Proposition 208, the Fair Political Practices Commission voted Monday to allow candidates to carry over to future campaigns contributions legally raised before the initiative takes effect at the start of the new year.
The 4-1 decision gives an advantage to candidates who have amassed large campaign chests for 1998 campaigns, such as Lt. Gov. Gray Davis and Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, who have raised more than $3 million and $2 million, respectively, in the past 1 1/2 years for campaigns for governor.
Proposition 208 limits campaign contributions, beginning Jan. 1, to $100 for local candidates, $250 for state legislative candidates and $500 for candidates for statewide offices. But it allows politicians to use for future campaigns any money raised before the limits take effect.
Since passage of the initiative Nov. 5, legislators have been engaged in a frenzy of fund-raising to build campaign war chests before the limits take effect.
Tony Miller, executive director of the coalition that wrote Proposition 208 and ran the campaign to enact it, urged the political watchdog commission to adopt regulations that would apply the initiative’s contribution limits to funds raised before Jan. 1 and carried over to future campaigns.
“The rules changed,” Miller said. “It seems very clear to me that what the people said is with respect to elections occurring after Jan. 1, 1997, contributions must be limited.”
With the exception of Carol Scott, who agreed with Miller and favored limiting carry-overs, commissioners said they would be going beyond their regulatory authority if they added more restrictions than were spelled out in the initiative.
“We’ve got one election to wash this out,” said Commissioner James Rushford, acknowledging that incumbents and early campaigners would have an advantage in 1998.
Scott strongly objected to the majority decision, saying, “We are abdicating our responsibility.”
“This may have the effect of seeming unfair,” said Chairman Ravi Mehta, “but it would also be unfair to restrict someone’s 1st Amendment rights” by placing restrictions on funds that were raised before the initiative passed.