To Combat Super PAC-Candidate Coordination, California Strengthens Its Regulations


Yesterday in Sacramento, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) adopted amendments to the state’s regulations on “Independent versus Coordinated Expenditures” that strengthened the regulation in a number of ways.  At the hearing, the Campaign Legal Center’s Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan offered testimony in support of the measure and in earlier written testimony urged the FPPC to adopt broader standards, some of which were incorporated before the vote.

“The changes will help curb the widespread and blatant coordination between Super PACs and the candidates they seek to elect,” said Ryan.  “This is a victory for California voters over special interests that have been able to exert massively disproportionate influence in elections by avoiding campaign contribution limits enacted to prevent corruption.”

In written comments filed on Tuesday, the Campaign Legal Center expressed general support for an earlier draft of the proposed rules, but urged the FPPC to expand their scope beyond “express advocacy” ads, to also include sham “issue” ads about candidates and coordinated with candidates.  The final draft approved Thursday addressed this concern to some extent, removing explicit reference to the weak “express advocacy” standard and making clear that the new rule also applies to ads simply mentioning candidates within 45 days of an election.

The new FPPC rule modifications define as coordination situations where candidates solicit for outside groups, where former staffers or family members occupy senior positions with outside groups and when candidates or committees share common consultants with outside groups.  CLC’s written comments emphasized that the FPPC rule changes reflect sound public policy and are clearly constitutional.  Unfortunately, however, the new rule relies on the weak “express advocacy” standard for most of the election cycle and does not apply the new fundraising restrictions to individuals claiming to be in a “pre-candidacy” stage who later become declared candidates.  CLC hopes to see the rule strengthened through a future rulemaking to address these issues and prevent the sort of blatant abuses that have become the “new normal” at the federal level.

“The FPPC has once again shown its leadership on effective campaign finance enforcement and regulation. The Commission is committed to updating its regulations in a timely manner in order to address constantly evolving campaign practices.  We hope the Federal Election Commission will take note and consider what can be done to combat candidate-super PAC coordination at the federal level,” Ryan said.

To read the new regulations, click here.

To read the comments filed by the Legal Center, click here