Tuesday, January 27, 2004
California Judge Loren McMaster has ruled that Arnold Schwarzenegger's $4.5 million in loans to his campaign were illegal under California law. I had been critical of these loans (see posting on October 14, 2003) because they could have been paid back by large campaign contributions that went straight into Arnold's own pockets -- smacking of bribery.
The Governor has said he will not appeal and will comply with the ruling. Good for him. His staff claim he originally used the loan only after consulting with flawed rulings by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.
This now means that both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cruz Bustamonte (see Jan 10, 2004 post) have been found to have committed major violations of campaign finance law during their campaigns. We need better and faster enforcement so that voters can learn about these violations before election day, not months afterward.
Kudos to Florida Governor Jeb Bush for his committment to require disclosure of currently secret funds used to influence Florida elections. Today's Saint Petersburg Times reports that improving disclosure is one of the governor's top three priorities for the year.
Florida has a system much like the recent federal soft money system. Some big money donors are getting around limits on contributions to candidates by giving instead to outside groups, who then spend the money in ways that help candidates. Florida really should do much more than requiring disclosure of funds to these groups, they should apply the same limits to these campaigns as they do to candidate campaigns. The Supreme Court has recently made clear that states can do this to prevent their contribution limits from becoming irrelevant.
So, Jeb Bushes proposal is a good first step, but he should really go much further. Voters should keep a close eye on things, however, as the Times reports that "how they will do it is unclear." Politicians in Florida might steal a play from the politicians in Washington, DC and dramatically increase the limits on money they themselves can raise while putting only modest disclosure regulations on the big funds raised by outside groups.