Friday, August 31, 2012

Political Fundraising in California Picks Up Steam, But Why?

Have you ever wondered why politicians seem to be able to raise more money at certain times, whether or not an election is on the horizon?

As the legislative session winds down in California tonight, there are dozens of bills waiting to be acted on. Many of these bills would have serious consequences -- for better or for worse -- for special interests across the state.

As the Los Angeles Times earlier this month, more than 70 fundraisers were planned for the first two weeks of August -- apparently during one hour two weeks ago nearly a dozen fundraisers were scheduled, even for legislators who are not up for reelection this November.
This is, of course, is no coincidence.
With so many bills pushed up against a deadline, lobbyists and special interests want to get the ear of legislators right before voting.
The level of fundraising must be disheartening for the vast majority of constituents who cannot spend thousands of dollars to pay for time at the racetrack, around the barbeque, or at a multi-day "policy retreat" with an elected official. It strains common sense to pretend that these fundraising events do not, at least in part, provide a way for those who would be affected by bills pending in the legislature to have the ear of elected officials. It similarly strains common sense to think that the average constituent can gain this type of access. Further, this end of the session fundraising fever does little to instill any confidence in our elected officials.
I wrote a lengthy law review article last year, in which I argued that just as the government can limit the size of campaign contributions, it should also limit when contributions can be given. Properly tailored temporal limits on campaign contributions could at the very least help to lessen the appearance of impropriety, which can arise from an increase in fundraising when many bills are being voted on.

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