Assembly Passes Bills Reshaping California Campaign Ethics

California Assembly floor // credit: assembly.ca.gov California Assembly floor // credit: assembly.ca.gov[/caption]

Closely following a handful of Senate bills that would amend the Political Reform Act of 1974, numerous Assembly bills were passed late last week which would revise election laws as well. Included among them was AB 1090 and AB 552 sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and ABs 914 and 800 sponsored by Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park).

Fong’s bills would expand California’s Fair Political Practices Commission’s (FPPC) ability to prosecute unlawful election activity. Specifically, AB 1090 would increase potential penalties associated with conflict of interest contracting and allow the commission to prosecute the alleged in superior court. AB 552 takes it another step, allowing the FPPC to collect on unpaid fines and penalties.

In a release, Fong asserted AB 552’s necessity, stating, “It is essential that the FPPC has the necessary tools & resources to enforce the law and the authority to uphold the intent of the Act.” Both bills passed the Assembly with some Republican support, 58-13 and 55-19, respectively.

Additional amendments to the Political Reform Act of 1974, AB 914 and AB 800, moved into the Senate rules committee Monday. Of Asm. Gordon’s two ethics reforms, AB 914 would institute disclosure regulations for 501(c) nonprofit organizations spending in excess of $50,000 in a given year.

Running along similar lines, AB 800 was referred to the Senate rules committee after passing the Assembly last Thursday. The bill grants the Franchise Tax Board and FPPC new power whereby they can request or audit information and expedite review of potential wrongdoing. The legislature’s analysis of the bill found,

“Some of these provisions appear to be in response, in part, to an $11 million campaign contribution made to the Small Business Action Committee PAC three weeks prior to the November 2012 statewide general election.”

The Small Business Action Committee PAC was subject to a FPPC investigation following the 2012 election.

The FPPC endorsed the four bills at a special meeting in April voting unanimously to sponsor ABs 1090, 552, and 914, while supporting AB 800. The FPPC was established by Proposition 9, also called the Political Reform Act, passed by a majority of voters in 1974.