By Patrick McGreevy
The state’s ethics watchdog agency has launched a yearlong overhaul of California’s
law governing campaign finance and lobbying with an eye toward streamlining and
simplifying rules that many politicians complain are too complex, the agency’s
top official said Wednesday.
Jodi Remke, chairwoman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, said the 41-year-old Political Reform Act needs to be updated, in part, to reflect changes in the way special interests try to influence elections and those who are elected.
“It’s impossible to understand,” Remke said of the law in a meeting with The Times’ Sacramento bureau. “If we can really focus on this and clean it up, it would be a huge step forward.”
Remke said campaign contribution limits will be looked at to see whether they are adequate, given that far more money is spent independently from candidates by special interest groups. “Are we chasing our tails talking about contribution limits when that’s not really the game anymore?” she asked.
FPPC officials have long said the law needs to reflect the desire to prevent serious corruption instead of tripping up public officials on relatively minor issues.
“The goal is that we get away from the small, ticky-tacky technical violations so we
can focus on the more serious violations,” Remke said. She also said there may be changes to get more people to disclose activity that should be considered as lobbying.
Faster disclosure of information, she said, is hindered by the state’s antiquated Cal-Access campaign finance system, which advocates and elections officials have urged should be overhauled.
Remke said the FPPC is working with UC Berkeley School of Law’s California Constitutional Center and the UC Davis School of Law where students are working on a first draft that then will go through revision by a citizens’ panel before being taken up by the FPPC.