(CALMATTERS) – Last year, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall wrote about the increasingly common practice of state legislators asking powerful interest groups to donate to favored nonprofits and charities — a kind of “monetary backchannel” around campaign finance rules.
The good news: The state’s campaign finance regulator is finally doing something about these “behested payments.”
The maybe not-so-good-news: The Fair Political Practices Commission is thinking about leaving in a big loophole.
One of the new rules under consideration would require an elected official to disclose when they are involved in a decision — say, a permit approval — that would impact the interest group making the charitable donation.
But here’s the caveat under consideration: Being “involved in a decision” doesn’t include legislating.
As Laurel explains: “That means the rule wouldn’t change anything for state lawmakers who routinely vote on bills affecting the businesses and unions they hit up for donations to their nonprofits.“
It’s not an abstract possibility. Earlier this year, state senators who lead the Legislature’s Black and Latino caucuses asked the state’s correctional officers’ union to donate $75,000 to the foundations they run. In June, the Legislature granted prison guards a $5,000 bonus and an 8% raise over the next two years.