Proposal would repeal limits on campaign contributions in California

Gov. Jerry Brown, left, receives congratulations on his State of the State address from state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, and his wife, Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, at the Capitol last month.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A Senate Republican leader has proposed eliminating limits on campaign contributions to state candidates, arguing the restrictions are ineffective.

Sen. Ted Gaines, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, introduced legislation to repeal major portions of the Proposition 34 that put a $4,100 limit on contributions by individuals to candidates for the legislature and a $27,000 limit on contributions to candidates for governor.

The measure would have to be acted on by the state voters.

SB 268 was introduced a few months after an Arizona group contributed $11 million from anonymous sources to a ballot initiative campaign in California. In addition, independent expenditure campaigns spent millions elsewhere to support or oppose candidates.


“If the goal of prior campaign finance reform was to lessen the influence of money in politics, it has been a miserable failure,’’ Gaines said. “The money has just migrated to shadowy outfits that spend anonymous millions with little disclosure.”

Others who have made similar proposals have argued that as long as the contributions are disclosed, the public can decide whether they are cause for concern.

“People should have complete freedom to make their voices heard, but I also want to give voters complete, immediate information as well bring some desperately needed transparency to the process,” Gaines said.

The proposal was criticized by Derek Cressman of the good-government group Common Cause. “It’s basically pouring gasoline on a fire,” Cressman said. “Politicians would like nothing better than to have unlimited contributions going straight to them, but voters want less money in politics, not more.”


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