For immediate release: 10/05/2015

FPPC Proposes Stronger Rules to Prevent Illegal Campaign

Contact: Jay Wierenga, (916) 322-7761

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), California’s governmental ethics and campaign disclosure agency, is proposing sweeping reforms in preparation for the 2016 election designed to ensure a level playing field for campaigns. The proposed changes come on the heels of a national trend towards increased coordination between candidates and Independent Expenditure (IE) committees – a trend the FPPC seeks to stop.

The proposal by FPPC staff will add more situations in which a presumption of coordination exists between a candidate and an outside spender expressly advocating on the candidate’s behalf. FPPC staff identified current situations dealing with coordinated expenditures both in California and in the national arena where it is reasonable to suspect underlying conduct that meets the definition of coordination.

If approved by the full Commission, the changes will strengthen the language and expand presumptions so that when the known facts reasonably imply coordination, the burden of proof would be on candidates and committees to show they are in compliance with the law.

“Having stronger presumptions of coordination will help make the connections between candidates and committees that are actually coordinating,” said FPPC Chief of Enforcement Galena West. “This makes our already tough regulations even stronger so all candidates will be playing by the same rules and that some
campaigns aren’t able to gain unfair advantage by coordinating their efforts illegally.”

The expanded presumptions will include stricter rules for candidates attending fundraisers, and for the transition of top-level campaign or political staff to IE Committees. The proposed regulation also includes provisions for
candidates and IE committees who share consultants, which FPPC staff found is quite commonplace in today’s political campaigns. 

The Commission will also be asked to repeal regulation 18550.1, which will be merged into the coordination regulation 18225.7. The merger will provide more clarity on the coordination issue as well as help streamline and simplify the Political Reform Act.

“Our rules on independent expenditures seek to require the highest degree of separation that is legally permissible between the outside spender and the candidate. At a time when we are seeing a proliferation of independent expenditures, this common-sense proposal focuses on well-documented situations that demonstrate a need for changes in the law,” said FPPC Chair Jodi Remke. “Not only does the proposal alert members of the regulated community of conduct that may cross the legal line, it also provides meaning to contribution limits.”