California Proposition 34, Limits on Campaign Contributions (2000)
Proposition 34 limits the amount of money an individual can contribute to candidates for the California State Legislature and for statewide elective offices. It also limits contributions to political parties. It expanded financial disclosure requirements and prohibited contributions from lobbyists to the election campaigns of politicians they lobby. The new law does not apply to campaigns for federal office, or for local offices (such as county supervisor).
Impact on campaign spending
Reports commissioned by the California Fair Political Practices Commission and released in 2008 and 2009 show trends and figures on campaign spending in the state after Proposition 34 took effect. A report released in 2008 is called ""Independent Expenditures: The Giant Gorilla in Campaign Finance." A report released in April 2009 is called "The Billion Dollar Money Train."
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.
Neil Derry, a county supervisor in San Bernardino County, said this report establishes that Proposition 34, and similar propositions passed in 1988 and 1996, have done nothing to decrease or clean up state legislative campaign spending. He said, ""None of them had any impact on the amount of money spent in an election, and they reduce accountability and drive campaign spending underground."
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.
Johnson retracts support
Ross Johnson, who later became the chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, supported Proposition 34. In 2009, he apologized for his earlier advocacy of Proposition 34, saying, ""I would like to apologize to California voters for supporting Proposition 34 and urging them to do the same when it was on the ballot in November 2000. Proposition 34 has allowed far too many ways for officeholders, candidates and special-interest contributors to legally circumvent its contribution limits."
"Laundering campaign money"
In 2010, Proposition 34 came under renewed criticism.
- Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters said, "...laundering campaign money to disguise its source is exactly what state legislators intended when they wrote Proposition 34 a decade ago. Its 'strict limits' were designed to give the appearance of reform while encouraging money-laundering and so-called 'independent expenditures' so that candidates wouldn't be accountable to voters for their sources of campaign funds.
Additionally, California Watch issued a report that suggested that "Politicians and their supporters have routinely funneled money through county-level political party committees around the state, avoiding strict limits on campaign giving and hiding the source of millions in donations." According to their analysis:
- "In one case, a single donor gave more than $300,000 in one day to 10 Democratic county committees from Humboldt to San Diego counties. Those committees proceeded to make large contributions to high-profile Democratic Assembly and Senate races at different times in the days leading up to the election."
- "In another case, a Modesto assemblyman made contributions to two Republican committees, which turned around and contributed to the assemblyman's brother, who was campaigning for a seat in a nearby district."
Text of measure
The ballot title was:
- Limits individual campaign contributions per election: state legislature, $3,000; statewide elective office, $5,000 (small contributor committees may double these limits); governor, $20,000.
- Limits contributions to political parties/political committees for purpose of making contributions for support or defeat of candidates.
- Establishes voluntary spending limits, requires ballot pamphlet to list candidates who agree to limit campaign spending.
- Expands public disclosure requirements, increases penalties for violations.
- Prohibits lobbyists’ contributions to officials they lobby.
- Limits campaign fund transfers between candidates, regulates use of surplus campaign funds.
- Effective 1/1/01, except statewide elective office effective 11/6/02.
Fiscal impact estimate
- See also: Fiscal impact statement
The California Legislative Analyst's Office provided an estimate of net state and local government fiscal impact for Proposition 34. That estimate was:
- Additional net costs to the state, potentially up to several million dollars annually, to publish candidate statements in the state ballot pamphlet and to implement and enforce provisions of the measure.
- Unknown, but probably not significant, costs to local governments to implement voluntary spending limit provisions of the measure.
Path to the ballot
Proposition 34 was voted onto the ballot by the California State Legislature via Senate Bill 1223 (Statutes of 2000, Chapter 102).
|Votes in legislature to refer to ballot|
- Official Voter Guide summary to Proposition 34
- Official ballot title of Proposition 34
- Official declaration of the November 7, 2000 vote (dead link)
- Full text of Proposition 34
- Smart Voter on Proposition 34
- Cal Voter on Prop 34
- Top Ten contributors
- San Bernardino Sun, "Pair of reports highlight campaign contributions," July 6, 2009
- Los Angeles Times, "Ross Johnson, the regretful lawmaker," November 3, 2009
- Sacramento Bee, "Opinion: Proposition 34 was designed for laundering," January 5, 2010
- Sacramento Bee, "Campaign limits avoided," January 3, 2010
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