California has typically been a trailblazer in campaign finance reform over the last century, proposing and implementing reforms that attempt to address the adverse effects of money in politics. While there is no silver bullet for money’s outsized role in our political system, there are plenty of good reforms, many of which are modeled by California cities. 

The Municipal Campaign Finance Index (MCFI) is an organized accounting of campaign finance laws in all California cities. The Index and its accompanying reportLocal Dollars and Local Democracy: A Comprehensive Analysis and Index of Campaign Finance Laws in California’s Cities, supply comprehensive data and context for California’s municipal campaign finance landscape.

The index, which is downloadable as an interactive spreadsheet, lists the 180 California cities that have implemented campaign finance reforms in their charters and/or municipal codes, indicates which reforms those cities have, and designates the strength and comprehensiveness of the reforms in each city. 

The report breaks down the data provided in the Index, explains various campaign finance laws, provides a brief history of such laws in California, discusses the future of reform, and proposes best-practice reforms to mitigate the inequitable effects of money in politics.

The MCFI is intended for multiple uses. A community activist can use the index to find out what types of campaign finance laws exist (or don’t exist) in their town and how cities nearby or similarly sized to their own employ reforms. A city attorney can use the index to research the statutory language different cities use for a particular type of reform. Researchers can use the index as a starting point or springboard for studies on election and campaign finance reform. 

Regardless of how one chooses to use the Municipal Campaign Finance Index, its purpose is education and advocacy. The hope is that the MCFI will lead to an expansion of meaningful campaign finance reform across California, which will mitigate corruption and increase faith in local democracy.

The Index, which is composed of 2022 data, will be updated when possible to reflect new, amended, or repealed municipal reforms as California Common Cause is made aware of them. To report updates, please email Sean McMorris at

Key findings in the report include:

The effect of state laws on municipal campaign finance

  • Since the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 571 (2019), 470 out of 482 California cities, or 98% of all CA cities, have campaign contribution limits
  • Since the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1439 (2022), all 482 California cities (as well as all other local jurisdictions) have an anti-pay-to-play law that mandates recusal of electeds and government decision-makers who will vote on or influence matters that effect the monetary interests of campaign contributors who gave more than $250 to their campaigns in the past 12 months. 

Extent and quality of municipal campaign finance laws

  • 180 California cities, or 37% of all CA cities, have self-imposed campaign finance reform (i.e., reform other than what is required by state law). 
  • 64 California cities, or 13% of all CA cities, have “strong” campaign finance laws (which means a city’s laws are generally well-designed and enforced to achieve their purpose).
  • 63 California cities, or 13% of all CA cities, have “comprehensive” campaign finance laws (which means that a city’s laws are multiple and thorough).

Public campaign finance systems

  • Seven California charter cities, or 1% of all CA cities, have instituted campaign public financing systems.

Laws that limit who can give to a campaign, when, and how much can be given

  • 143 California cities, or 30% of all CA cities, have self-imposed campaign contribution limits (i.e., limits other than what state law requires via AB 571).
  • 109 California cities, or 23% of all CA cities, have campaign contribution limits that are $1,000 or less.

Enforcement and oversight of campaign finance laws 

  • 131 California cities, or 27% of all CA cities, have deterrent penalties for campaign finance violations.
  • Nine California cities, or 2% of all CA cities, have ethics commissions that oversee or enforce campaign finance laws.