According to a California-based think tank, politicians continue to skirt campaign finance laws to raise millions of dollars. According to LA's Center for Governmental Studies, legal defense funds, inaugural and leadership committees, donations to favored charities, political party contributions and reimbursed travel expenses are among the "tricks of the trade" used to subvert campaign finance regulations.
For example, Governor Schwarzenegger, the most prolific fundraiser in state history, raked in $125 million over a four year period. In just the first six months of 2009, Schwarzenegger raised $6.5 million despite donations to governors being limited to $25,900 per election cycle. The money was directed to Schwarzenegger's 'California Dream Team', an all-purpose political fund that he has occasionally utilized to fund ballot measures.
However, Schwarzenegger spokesman, Adam Mendelsohn defended Schwarzenegger, stating that the Governor has repeatedly called for campaign finance reform and supports AB 583, which will appear on the 2010 ballot and would create public financing for the office of Secretary of State by 2011. However, despite the Governor's pleas, the state has done virtually nothing to contain skyrocketing campaign contributions.
A similar trend is seen nationwide. Campaign finance laws are littered with legal loopholes, and politicians are vigorously exploiting them. The Center for Governmental Studies is offering a number of potential solutions to reign in the overt abuse and institute greater accountability. It is proposing a new model in which money that candidates or elected officials receive is strictly for a political purpose. Under such a model, politicians would be required to disclose any contributions of more than $100 and would be prohibited from using any contributions for personal purposes. In addition, legal defense funds would be treated as a separate issue, and travel reimbursement would be more substantially limited.
CAIVP is also working hard to develop a more transparent campaign finance model. Money has come to dominate politics, and as a result, politicians have sacrificed service, integrity, and performance for special interest favors. At CAIVP, we'd like to hear your thoughts, concerns, and feedback on how to revamp California's campaign finance laws. Please click here to offer your input.