California Lawmaker Shelves Hike of Campaign-Donor Caps

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Facing bipartisan opposition, a California lawmaker nixed a last-minute proposal that would have significantly raised the cap on campaign donations to the Legislature’s most powerful members.

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin re-introduced Assembly Bill 84 earlier this month, quickly roiling members of his own party as well as open-government groups. Critics said the bill – which would have increased the limit on individual campaign donations to party leaders from $4,400 to $36,500 – would infuse corporate donations and other dark money sources into state politics.

With little time to amend the proposal or round up support before Friday’s end-of-session deadline, the San Mateo Democrat pulled AB 84 late Monday.

“Until we can overturn the Citizens United decision, or reach an agreement on the public financing of campaigns, I felt AB 84 provided a viable option given the increased reporting requirements and disclosure it required, as well as abiding by the existing limits on donations to similar party committees,” Mullin said in a statement. “However, given the strict time requirements for amending bills addressing the Political Reform Act, we are unable to amend the bill any more this year.”

Earlier this month Mullin defended AB 84 before a Senate elections committee, calling it an “anti-dark money” bill that would increase transparency to a muddled reporting system for campaign donations. He argued party leaders should be allowed to corral larger campaign coffers and dole the money out to members as they see fit.

But the proposal didn’t sit well with the California Democratic Party and open-government groups like Common Cause and Women Voters of California. The groups, which supported Mullin’s previous efforts, said the bill was proposed in the “11th hour without any real opportunity for meaningful input.”

The state Democratic party applauded Mullin’s decision.

“We clearly but respectfully disagreed with aspects of this bill, and we’re proud of the work our grassroots activists did to ensure that our concerns were heard by the Legislature,” said John Vigna, party communications director.

Without support from his party or Republicans, Mullin’s fundraising reform faced an uphill battle.

The proposal would have amended the state’s Political Reform Act and therefore required a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers by Friday. At least one Republican needed to vote for the bill in order for it to pass the state Senate, but last Friday the Senate Republican Caucus sent Mullin a letter saying it wouldn’t vote for AB 84 this year.

Kathryn Phillips of Common Cause said the group looks forward to working with Mullin on “future efforts to improve campaign finance disclosure, transparency and public financing.”


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