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THE NOONER for August 5, 2014
DOING THE LAUNDRY: Now that we're moving on to the general election and have a small field of competitive races, the parties are starting to work their magic under the Proposition 34 Rube Goldbergian campaign finance scheme. For an example, I'm going to look at SD14 candidate Andy Vidak, but both parties will be doing this. In fact, yesterday, the state Democratic Party reported spending $29,281 in-kind for Vidak's challenger, Fresno Unified trustee Luis Chavez.
This cycle, state legislative candidates are limited to contributions from a single source of $4,100 for each of the primary and general elections. However, political parties--defined as either the state party or county central committees--can give unlimited amounts to candidates. And, those political parties can accept $34,000 per year from contributors for contributions to state candidates.
So, on Friday, Vidak for Senate reported receiving $46,200 from the Republican Central Committee of San Luis Obispo County. Now, you might think that those nice coastal folks had a clam bake and opened their wallets for the competitive seat over the hill in Kings County. Well, it's not that simple.
The SLO county party is a favorite (along with Stanislaus and Tulare) for Republican legislative leaders to "process" funds under the Proposition 34 fundraising scheme. In fact, campaign finance reports show that only one contribution this year, from a winery, originated in San Luis Obispo County. The other money was raised by state leaders under the auspices of the California Republican Leadership Fund as an intermediary, and then passed on to the county committee. Thus, the county committee had $1.4 million on hand as of June 30, or nearly $24 for every registered Republican in the county!
Here are the donors to the SLO county since January 1, most of whom gave through the California Republican Leadership Fund:
You can see that other county committees can give, which allows an interest to actually exceed the $34,000 limit for contributions meant for state candidates. Thus, San Luis Obispo can only spend $34,000 of PG&E's $42,000 on state candidates, but it can give the balance to Tulare County, which in turn can give it to state candidates. Isn't that sweet?
Proposition 34 was written by the parties, for the parties, in the aftermath of Proposition 208 being thrown out by the courts. It was an offensive move to avoid a more onerous, but constitutional, initiative.
The added benefit is following the legal money laundering through the California Republican Leadership Fund and the Republican Central Committee of San Luis Obispo, it makes it really hard to attack Andy Vidak for taking money from any special interest listed above. Further, it makes a joke of the State Senate's "ban" on fundraising during the last month of session.
Again, Democrats do it too, and this is just an example.
I don't have a solution to campaign finance "reform," but every year I get closer to the attitude of lifting all limits, prohibiting transfers, and requiring 24 hour disclosure.
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