Last month, a proposed bill that was introduced by state Senator Patricia Bates was voted against on a bipartisan vote. The proposed bill, Senate Bill 401 (SB 401), was seeking to place limits on contributions that may be made to and received by candidate-controlled ballot measure committees. In other words, the purpose of SB 401 was to end an unlimited political cash loophole that California voters unknowingly approved through a ballot proposition in 2000. Senator Bates stated the following regarding SB 401 earlier this year,
It is time to close the loophole, so that candidates and elected officials cannot use money intended for promoting or opposing ballot measures to instead promote themselves and their campaigns.
Proposition 34 was the bill that Californians passed in 2000 that created this issue, where lawmakers can collect an unlimited amount of money for their ballot measure committee. The rules don’t require the committee to ever engage in ballot measure politicking, so lawmakers don’t really have to spend money to support or oppose a proposition. There are 31 lawmakers from both major political parties that have active ballot measure campaign committees. Most of them just spend the committee’s money on things such as political consultants, polling, and travel. In 2005, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger backed a ballot measure that tried to impose candidate campaign donation limits to these committees, but a state appeals court ruled that, in this instance, only the Legislature had the power to make that change. It appears that lawmakers have no intent on closing this loophole, so it will be up to California voters to close this loophole in order to get rid of it.