Tuesday, October 04, 2005

California Pols Defund, Defang State Watchdog

As Andrew McIntosh reports in the Sacramento Bee, the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the Golden State's campaign finance watchdog agency, has announced that it will drop nearly 400 cases due to insufficient resources.

The FPPC has a current budget of about $6.1 million to oversee the campaign finances, ethics violations, and conflict of interest disclosures for all the candidates, lobbyists, officeholders, and bureaucrats at the state, county, and municipal levels. And if you know anything about California elections, government, or bureaucracy - that's a bunch of work to get done on six million bucks.

Last year, after an investigation by the FPPC into a loan he made to his campaign, Governor Schwarzenegger proposed a budget which cut the FPPC's discretionary funds by 45% at a time when the funding of other agencies was getting cut by 5%, according to Christian Berthelsen of the San Francisco Chronicle. Of course, Schwarzenegger's budget spokesman H.D. Palmer points the finger at Democrats in the Legislature for the FPPC's insufficient funds.

The reality is that in California, like most other states, the annual state budget tango takes two: the Legislature and the Governor. And if either the Dems in the Legislature or his Arnoldness wanted to make sure that the FPPC got enough money to do its job - they could and would.

Campaign finance laws can do a great job in making sure that wealthy interests don't get more say in elections and government than the rest of us. As long as pols refuse to fund the state agency in charge of enforcing those laws, Californians will be stuck with a watchdog begging for the polygrip.

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