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State regulators weigh crackdown on campaign 'robocalls'

November 17, 2010 |  8:11 am

Should Californians be able to put themselves on a "do not call" list for pesky political "robocalls," or should the automated calls be banned altogether?

Those are among the ideas to be discussed Wednesday by a task force set up to recommend changes to the state’s Political Reform Act. The group, appointed by Fair Political Practices Commission Chairman Dan Schnur, will consider several recommendations that would significantly change how politicians campaign in the state.

Robocalls have drawn complaints from Californians for years. Some members of the task force who looked at the issue say current regulations are confusing. A report by members of the panel states: "A reconsideration of the policy is necessary to either achieve the goal of truly prohibiting political robocalls or finding the best way to limit them in California." One alternative would be to allow Californians to opt into a no-call list similar to one that exists for commercial telemarketer calls.

Other task force members are recommending that the limit on campaign contributions from individuals for statewide races other than governor, including attorney general and treasurer, be increased from $6,500 to $12,500.

"The current limit of $6,500 has been referred by some as an incumbent protection rate," said a report by panel members. It added that the limits make it nearly impossible to raise more than $1.5 million in net revenue in a primary, which hinders the ability of challengers to compete with incumbents who already are well known by voters.

The task force also will consider raising the threshold for qualifying as a major donor, which requires additional disclosure, to $25,000 from $10,000. The panel also will weigh a proposal to replace the current, antiquated electronic-filing system for campaign finance reports, which is form-driven, with one that is data-driven and therefore easier to search.

The 1 p.m. meeting will involve a teleconference from two locations. The public can listen in on the phone by calling (888) 751-0624 and entering the access code: 723284.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento