California Fair Political Practices Commission

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The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is a indepdendent campaign finance disciplinary agency that oversees California's campaign finance laws.


The commission was created by the Political Reform Act of 1974, a ballot initiative passed by California voters as California Proposition 9 (June 1974).

Mission Statement

According to its website, the FPPC educates the public and public officials on the requirements of the Act. It provides written and oral advice to public agencies and officials; conducts seminars and training sessions; develops forms, manuals and instructions; and receives and files statements of economic interests from many state and local officials.


The FPPC is governed by a five person board and is assisted by a staff of 80 employees.[1]

Selection of members

Top fppc logotype.gif

The five members of the FPPC board serve for a non-renewable four-year term.

  • The commission's chair is appointed by the governor.
  • The other member of the commission appointed by the governor must be a registered voter in a political party that is not the political party of the governor.

If all three of the constitutional officials (the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general) are members of the same political party, the state controller selects the new commissioner from a list provided by another political party.

The chairman of the commission draws a salary and serves full-time. The other four commissioners are part-time and paid a $100 per diem for each meeting.[1]

Current chair

Dan Schnur served on head the FPPC.[2]

Schnur replaces Ross Johnson, who resigned his post at the end of April 2010 for health reasons.[3] Johnson is credited with bringing "public attention to little-known aspects of political disclosure rules...[producing] factual reports about the largest campaign donors in the state, and independent expenditures" during his tenure as head of the FPPC.[3]

Current commissioners

  • Law professor Ronald D. Rotunda, who was appointed by Controller John Chiang. Rotunda’s appointment ends on January 31, 2013.[4]
  • Lynn Montgomery, who was appointed by Jerry Brown. Montgomery's appointment ends on January 31, 2013.[5]
  • Timothy A. Hodson, who was appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. Hodson's term will end in 2011.
  • Elizabeth Garrett, appointed in August 2009 by Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Garrett's term ends on January 31, 2013.[6] Garrett is a member of the Board of Directors of the Initiative & Referendum Institute.

Campaign finance discipline

The FPPC investigates alleged violations of the Political Reform Act, imposes penalties when appropriate, and assists state and local agencies in developing and enforcing conflict-of-interest codes.

Regulatory authority

The FPPC regulates:

  • campaign financing and spending;
  • financial conflicts of interest;
  • lobbyist registration and reporting;
  • post-governmental employment;
  • mass mailings at public expense; and
  • gifts and honoraria given to public officials and candidates.

FPPC's reports on campaign spending

"Big Money Talks"

The FPPC issued a report in March 2010 entitled "Big Money Talks: California's Billion Dollar Club."[4] The report shows that 15 groups spent over $1 billion between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2009 to influence political campaigns in the state. The single largest donor in that 10-year period was the California Teachers Association, which spent more on campaigns in California in that ten-year period than any other union, business, organization or individual.[7] The size of CTA's warchest in the 10-year period was nearly double that of the California State Council of Service Employees, the group that came in 2nd in the Big Money sweepstakes, according to the FPPC.[4]

31% of the over $1 billion spent by the top 15 groups was spent by the top two, the CTA and the California State Council of Service Employees. These two public employee unions cumulatively spent $319.2 million on California political campaigns in the 10-year period.[4]

Six utility and energy companies were in the top 15, cumulatively spending $308.2 million. 3 Indian tribes spent $201.8 million, while 2 pharmaceutical and hospital interests spent another $147.9 million. Rounding out the 15 top groups were a tobacco company, which spent $50.7 million and the California Chamber of Commerce, which spent $39 million.[4]

Other studies

The FPPC commissioned two extensive studies of campaign spending in California in the wake of Proposition 34 from 2000, which was supposed to clean up state legislative campaign spending.

  • The FPPC's report released in 2008 is called ""Independent Expenditures: The Giant Gorilla in Campaign Finance."
  • Its report released in April 2009 is called "The Billion Dollar Money Train."[8]

The reports indicate that since the passage of Proposition 34, state and legislative candidates have raised more than $1 billion for their campaigns. The report also shows that more than $88 million was spent on independent items benefitting candidates for state office from January 1, 2001, when Proposition 34 took effect, through the 2006 election cycle.[9]

Other findings of the FPPC studies:

  • Contributions into candidate-controlled ballot measure committees increased more than 200,000-percent from 2001 through 2006.
  • Of the more than $1 billion raised for candidate campaigns in the state, 58% of that total was raised for candidates for the California State Legislature during a time that these candidates were under Proposition 34's limits.
  • $88 million was spent on independent expenditures benefitting candidates for state office since the passage of Proposition 34.
  • There was a 6,144% increase in independent expenditure spending in legislative elections between 2000 and 2006.

Policy proposals

In 2009, the FPPC is considering rules that would prohibit government agencies from spending taxpayer money to advocate for or against ballot measures. Although agencies are already prohibited from doing this, the exact type of behavior they are not allowed to engage in hasn't been clear so the agency is considering clarifying what is and isn't acceptable.[10]

Editors and columnists at the Los Angeles Times argued in October 2008 that several informational pieces paid for by local governments crossed the line into advocacy rather than informing voters.[11]

See: Vargas v. City of Salinas

See also

External links