State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo/Pacifica) has introduced legislation that would prohibit certain types of political spending in California, including contributions of campaign funds by elected officials to business entities and nonprofits owned or operated by members of their families.
Senate Bill 831 would amend the Political Reform Act, which governs disclosure of political money, to increase transparency in response to several practices that have been exposed in recent years. The measure is coauthored by Assembly members Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose).
The legislation would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and make several changes to the Political Reform Act, including:
Ø Prohibiting elected officials from contributing campaign funds to business entities or nonprofits owned or operated by another elected official on the same body. For members of the Legislature, this prohibition would apply to members of both houses as the same body.
Ø Prohibiting elected officials from contributing campaign funds to business entities or nonprofits owned or operated by their family members. Also prohibits elected officials from asking persons to donate to a business entity or nonprofit owned or operated by their family members.
Ø Prohibiting elected officials from contributing campaign funds to business entities or nonprofits owned or operated by other elected officials' family members. Prohibits an elected official from asking persons to donate to a business entity or nonprofit organization owned or operated by other elected officials or their families.
Ø Increasing transparency of behested payments to and from elected officials by lowering the reporting threshold from $5,000 to $2,500 and requiring the Fair Political Practices Commission to post the transactions on its website within 30 days.
Ø Creating a limit of $5,000 for travel-related gifts to elected officials from nonprofits and other groups. Currently there is no cap on the amount of money elected officials can receive from groups for travel if the elected official is speaking at a conference. Elected officials would have to use campaign or personal funds for travel-related expenditures over $5,000 in a calendar year from a single source.
Ø Prohibiting the expenditure of campaign funds for an elected official’s mortgage, rent, utility bills, clothing, club memberships, vacations, tuition, tickets for sporting and entertainment events, and other personally beneficial items prohibited by state and federal regulations.
“These reforms are intended to modernize California’s Political Reform Act, which was approved by voters in 1974,” said Hill. A Common Cause report released last month found that in 2012, state elected officials received $216,000 in gifts and travel payments and solicited or received $6.7 million in behested payments. Since 2000, state elected officials solicited or received over $109 million in behested payments from various companies, organizations and nonprofits.
The Fair Political Practices Commission defines behested payments as “contributions solicited by members of the Assembly, Senate and statewide elected officers. These payments are not considered campaign contributions or gifts, but are payments made at the ‘behest’ of elected officials to be used for legislative, governmental or charitable purposes.”
State law requires the reporting of behested payments only if they total $5,000 or more per year from a single source. There are no reporting requirements for behested payments up to $4,999.99.
(Posted by John Maybury, Pacifica Riptide, Pacifica, California)