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California fundraising laws full of loopholes, report says

April 13, 2009 |  1:53 pm

California’s political fundraising laws are so full of holes that candidates for state office are managing to collect an average of $344,503 a day, according to state regulators. 

A report released today by the Fair Political Practices Commission concludes that nine years after voters approved contribution limits through Proposition 34, "the goal of reducing special interest money remains elusive."

About $1 billion in political cash has been raised since the limits were put in place.

"The amounts of money raised are staggering," said commission Chairman Ross Johnson in an interview. "It raises very serious questions about the potential for undue influence, the potential for corruption."

Individual donations are limited to $3,900 for a candidate for the Legislature and $25,900 for a candidate for governor. However, many elected officials set up other committees to raise money for other purposes -- officeholder expenses; legal defense campaigns; support for, or opposition to, ballot measures.

Those committees have raised $156 million. Ballot measure accounts have no contribution limits. Donations to those have been as high as $2 million.

"These methods allow candidates and officeholders to evade the intent of the people of California," Johnson said, adding that he hoped that the report would trigger a debate about possible law changes.

-- Patrick McGreevy