Senate should stop AB 84 before it allows legislative leaders to raise and direct unlimited amounts of special interest money
SACRAMENTO, Wednesday, August 8, 2018 — A group of California’s major good government organizations announced their joint opposition to AB 84 today and urged California senators to put a brick on the bill before it fast-tracks a flood of special interest campaign donations to legislative leaders.
The gut-and-amend bill, which circumvented the normal public review process, failed to gain approval from the California Fair Political Practices Commission after its introduction in July. It is expected to go before the Senate Elections Committee as early as next week and would take effect for this November’s election.
“AB 84 would be the biggest rollback of the Political Reform Act’s campaign finance protections in at least a decade,” said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause. “It opens the flood gates for uncapped campaign contributions to flow directly to legislative leaders from special interests seeking special favors.”
AB 84 would allow Assembly and Senate caucus leaders to form and control their own political party committees like the ones already run by State Democratic and Republican parties. That means each of the four caucus leader committees could receive individual contributions up to $36,500 for their targeted state races, compared to the $4,400 maximum currently permitted by law.
Furthermore, if enacted, AB 84 would permit the new “legislative caucus committees” to receive unlimited contributions for independent expenditures for and against candidates, and to give unlimited amounts of money to state candidate committees. Nothing in the law prohibits the committees from using the funds for unlimited independent expenditures for not only caucus incumbents but for caucus leaders themselves.
Multiple good government groups filed letters of opposition to AB 84, including California Common Cause, California Clean Money Campaign, CALPIRG, League of Women Voters of California, and Money Out Voters In (MOVI).
“In a democracy, voters select their representatives,” said Melissa Breach, executive director of the League of Women Voters of California. “This bill shifts that dynamic – giving California’s legislative leadership, and incumbents in office, more power to select their own colleagues.”
“This is not a good look for the Legislature,” said Michele Sutter of MOVI. “To respond to the problem of money in politics by creating what amounts to four new independent expenditure committees, controlled by the Legislature’s leadership to spend on candidates they favor, is maddening, especially to those of us trying to make the case to non-voters that their vote matters. We hope they rethink this. More money isn’t the answer.”
“While AB 84 offers some modest transparency improvements,” said Trent Lange, president of the California Clean Money Campaign, “on balance it doesn’t provide nearly enough public interest reforms in exchange for such a dramatic expansion of leadership power or the possible increase of monied interest influence.”
“California’s campaign contribution limits are already absurdly out of reach for most Californians,” said Emily Rusch, executive director, CALPIRG. “AB 84 would open up new, more direct avenues for extremely wealthy and corporate interests to give large contributions and exert their influence over the political process. We urge the legislature to pause and rethink the long-term consequences of this bill for their constituents.”