Sacramento – Today, the Legislature showed bipartisan support for Senate Bill 1107 (Allen, Hancock, Chiu, Gonzalez), which would enable the state and local governments to address special interest money in politics with citizen funded...
What is the problem?
Voters are increasingly concerned about political mega-donors in our elections, and many governments are considering new approaches to campaign financing. Unfortunately, one of the most promising reforms is currently prohibited in most California jurisdictions.
Six charter cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, and Richmond) offer limited public funds to match small campaign donations. These laws amplify the voices of everyday Californians who donate small amounts and give candidates an alternative to relying on large donors.
But other jurisdictions cannot enact such laws today. Unlike charter cities, a provision of a 1988 initiative bans counties, districts, general law cities, or the state from offering public campaign funds.
How can we provide local options to address campaign finance?
SB 1107 (Allen/Hancock) would restore local control to develop local solutions that address voters’ concerns.
SB 1107 would permit counties, districts, general law cities, or the state to enact citizen-funded election programs, like those already in place in six charter cities. The bill would update a 28-year-old law, which caused courts to strike down a locally-enacted county ordinance, to restore local control of this issue.
SB 1107 would not create a citizen-funded election program, would not require any government to offer public funds, and would not raise any taxes or fees. It would simply provide local governments or the state the option to enact their own programs, such as vouchers or public-private matching funds.
Where they currently exist, candidates of both parties have widely utilized citizen-funded election programs. Studies of existing citizen-funded election programs have found benefits including reducing the pressure for candidates to fundraise, increasing the diversity of candidates and donors, reducing candidates’ reliance on wealthy donors and special interests, encouraging greater competition, strengthening the connections between elected officials and constituents, and fostering broader electoral participation.
SB 1107 includes protections for public accountability and political fairness. The bill would ensure that no public funds may be used to advantage any political party or to advantage incumbents or challengers. Any program would be voluntary: SB 1107 would allow local governments to decide.
What other reforms can strengthen accountability and public trust?
Additionally, in the rare but serious cases that an elected official is convicted of a felony such as bribery or embezzlement and therefore banned from running for future office, SB 1107 would require the convicted official to return any unused campaign funds to donors or pay past debts, and forfeit any surplus funds after six months to the state’s general fund. (Legal defense funds would not be affected.)