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Sacramento Politicians Abuse Ballot Measure Committees for Cash

California legislators have found a way around pesky limits on political contributions to their own campaigns with the golden goose of loosely-controlled, and not closely monitored, candidate-controlled ballot measure committees, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Research by the Bay Area News Group suggests that special interests have shown a recent propensity to contribute to ballot measure committees. Over the past ten years these special committees have soared from just six to 36 or more controlled by 32 legislators. The Mercury News reports that according to the data ,only a quarter of $3 million in ballot measure spending went toward supporting or opposing measures on the ballot.

The report details that a mere seven of the 32 current legislators with ballot measure committees made expenditures on actual ballot listed measures since 2013.

Jay Wirenga of the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the regulatory body that oversees campaign finance in California, cited a lawsuit from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and lack of wherewithal to track money in and out of these committees, when asked why the problem hasn’t been addressed, according to the Mercury News. A 2004 FPPC effort to control ballot measure fundraising was thwarted by a court decision on the Schwarzenegger case.

These special committees often are filed with vague descriptions, according to the report. Among half a dozen $100,000-plus donors from 2014 to 2016 are health insurance company Blue Shield, the Pechanga Indians, public employee union AFSCME, and a construction worker-representing trade group.

Almost all of the legislators with ballot measure committees are Democrats; only three are not.

Republican State Sen. Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) authored a bill that would have prevented legislatorsfrom promoting their own candidacy, or the candidacy of others, with ballot measure committee funds. The bill failed.

Several other examples are given in the report that suggest legislators taking money for ballot measure committees also acted in the legislature in a way favorable to the donor.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

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