CA Must End This Sorry Practice

Under current law, political donations may be accepted by CA legislators who have the authority to approve expenditures of benefit to donors and disclosure of donations isn’t required until after budgets authorizing expenditures have been adopted. Does that make sense to you?

Examples of such donors include hospitals, dialysis providers, prescription drug suppliers and others who collect >$100 billion per year of spending on health services, and teachers, engineers, prison guards, retired employees and other public employees who collect >$100 billion per year of spending on services directly provided by the state or its subsidiaries. Donations need not be disclosed until June 30, which is 15 days after the Legislature is required to pass a budget.

We believe lawmakers should never accept donations from corporations, unions or associations whose shareholders, employees or members stand to receive money under agreements with the state or its subsidiaries. There is a healthy precedent for such a restriction: Lawmakers may not accept donations from enterprises receiving money under contracts to manage state pension assets if they have influence over those contracts. Needless to say, the same restriction should apply to spending over which legislators have even clearer influence.

This year, CA legislators will also authorize more than $40 billion of non-recurring spending from federal funds for the state and schools under the American Rescue Plan. The sooner legislators outlaw political donations from beneficiaries of state spending, the better. In the meantime they should reject them. Should they nevertheless accept such donations, disclosure should be immediate.