California Agency Said Ready For Elections


Published:
Source: Laura Mahoney, Bloomberg BNA

Reproduced with permission from Money & Politics Report,
(Mar. 2, 2016). Copyright 2016 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.
(800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com

California Agency Said Ready For Elections

March 1, 2016 08:18PM ET | Bloomberg BNA

California's campaign watchdog agency is ready for election season and will emphasize compliance and enforcement for candidates and ballot measure campaigns in advance of the primary and general elections, Fair Political Practices Commission Chair Jodi Remke said Feb. 29.

“Our enforcement division is fully staffed and ready,” Remke said. “These proactive efforts will increase compliance and disclosure when it matters most— before the election.”

Enforcement efforts will focus on correct disclosures on ballot measure ads, mandatory filing of candidate preelection campaign statements, proactive review of large laundered contributions, and random pre-election compliance audits, Remke said during remarks to the Sacramento Press Club.

The FPPC will have some new tools at its disposal during the 2016 elections, including rules adopted in 2015 targeting illegal coordination between candidates and super political action committees (4116 Money & Politics Report 4116, 10/16/15).

The rules “clarify that the so-called dark money is not allowed in California elections,” she said.

Foreign Contribution Rules

The commission also is seeking legislation to broaden its authority over foreign contributions following its $61,500 fine against a foreign producer of online pornography for illegally contributing to a 2012 ballot committee, she said (4159 Money & Politics Report, 12/18/15). Under current law, the FPPC can take action only when foreign money enters campaigns for ballot measures while the Federal Election Commission has jurisdiction over candidate races.

A.B. 2250 by Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D) would give the FPPC the authority to act in candidate races involving foreign money as well, she said.

“Giving FPPC concurrent jurisdiction we can jump in before an election and hopefully disclose any such foreign influence,” Remke said.

The bill was introduced Feb. 18 and can be heard in committee after March 20.

The FPPC is continuing to work toward electronic filing of the 25,000 statements of economic interest now filed on paper by elected officials and key staff members, improved access to advice letters and information related to the Political Reform Act on its web site, and a new enforcement case management system to track and pursue investigations more efficiently, Remke said. The system would allow members of the public to check the status of complaints and investigations.

Online Database Overhaul

Remke said she is pushing for an overhaul of the antiquated online campaign finance database, called Cal-Access, which is maintained by the Secretary of State. She credited Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) and Maplight for their recent partnership to make data more accessible and usable, but said the problem is much larger.

“Unless we have a complete overhaul of the system we're stopped in our tracks for
political reform in California,” Remke said.

To follow up on recent regulations boosting disclosure of “other payments to influence” state legislative or administrative action (4180 Money & Politics Report, 1/25/16), Remke said the FPPC is starting to craft regulations to create a presumption that individuals are engaged in lobbying if they engage in direct communication with elected officials and are paid at least $2,000 to work on a specific issue. The burden would shift to individuals to show they are doing something other than lobbying, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif. at lmahoney@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bna.com