A.B. 583 - The Clean Money and Fair Elections Act

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Authors of AB 583


Assemblymember Loni Hancock


Senator Don Perata, President pro Tempore

Senator Ellen Corbett, Chair of Senate Judiciary Committee

Senator Sheila Kuehl, Chair of Senate Health Committee

Senator Carole Migden, Chair of Labor and Industrial Relations

Senator Jenny Oropeza, Chair of Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee

Senator Leland Yee, Assistant President pro Tempore

Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr., Chair of Human Services

Assemblymember Patty Berg, Chair of Aging and Long Term Care

Assemblymember Julia Brownley, Chair of Budget Sub Committee on Education

Assemblymember Mark DeSaulnier, Chair of Growth Management

Assemblymember Mike Eng, Chair of Business and Professions

Assemblymember Noreen Evans, Chair of Democratic Caucus

Assemblymember Jared Huffman, Chair of Environmental Safety

Assemblymember Dave Jones, Chair of Judiciary Committee

Assemblymember John Laird, Chair of Budget Committee

Assemblymember Mark Leno, Chair of Appropriations Committee

Assemblymember Ted Lieu, Chair of Banking and Finance Committee

Assemblymember Fiona Ma, Majority Whip

Assemblymember Gene Mullin, Chair of Education Committee

Assemblymember Curren Price, Chair of Elections Committee

Assemblymember Lori Salda�a, Member of Housing Committee

Assemblymember Sandr� Swanson, Chair of Labor Committee

Assemblymember Alberto Torrico, Chair of Government Organization Committee

Assemblymember Lois Wolk, Chair of Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee

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AB 583, authored by Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-East Bay) and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, would set up a voluntary system of publicly-funded political campaigns for the Secretary of State's race in 2014 and 2018.  This would serve as a pilot project to show the public how well Clean Money will work and make sure the details are right for California.  It is patterned after the successful Clean Money systems working in Arizona and Maine for eight years, adopted for California’s unique electoral circumstances.  If passed and signed by the governor, AB 583 would be placed before the voters on the June 2010 ballot.

By giving qualified Secretary of State candidates the option to run entirely with public funds instead of private campaign contributions, AB 583 would insure that voters would never need to have any question about who they're accountable to when they oversee California's elections.

How Clean Money Would Work

To Qualify:  Candidates have to receive 7,500 $5 qualifying contributions and signatures from registered California voters to show that they have a broad base of support.

Clean Money Candidates Receive:  Enough baseline public funds to run competitive primary campaigns ($1,000,000).  If they win their primary they receive enough baseline public funds to run competitive general election campaigns ($1,300,000).

"Fair Fight" Funds If Outspent:  If Clean Money Candidates are outspent by an opponent who does not participate or if independent groups attack them or support their opponent, they receive matching funds on a dollar for dollar basis within 24 hours to respond, up to total funding of 4 times the base amount, i.e. $4,000,000 in a primary and $5,200,000 in the general election.

Candidates Must:  Agree to spending limits and take no private contributions other than limited seed funds that cannot be used during the election.  Candidates will not be allowed to raise or spend additional money beyond what they receive from the fund.

Paid For By Voluntary Tax Contributions and a Fee on Lobbyists

AB 583 is paid for by voluntary contributions designated on state tax returns and by a registration fee of $350 a year on lobbyists, lobbying firms, and lobbyist employers, the same as in Illinois.  Currently lobbyists only pay $25 every two years in California.

Qualification and Funding Levels for Major Party Candidates

Max seed money ($100 max per contributor)


Required $5 contributions and signatures from registered voters to qualify


Baseline Primary funding amount


Max aggregate Primary Election funding including matching funds


Baseline General Election funding amount


Max aggregate General Election funding including matching funds


Qualification and Funding Levels for Third-Party and Independent Candidates

Because third party and independent candidates don't have primary elections involving millions of voters, as major party candidates do, they require twice the normal number of qualifying contributions (15,000) to “performance qualify” to receive full funding in the general election.  They receive 25% of the base funding in the general election if they gather half the normal qualifying contributions (3,750).

This "performance-based system" allows third-party and independent candidates to opportunity to get their message out and receieve full funding in the general election if they can prove performance while at the same time assuring voters that public funds won't be wasted, and therefore has been endorsed by the Green Party of California.

AB 583 Provisions

•  Base funding levels are set near the same levels as winning Secretary of State candidates in 2002 and 2006 to allow competitive races.  All performance-qualified candidates receive the same amount in the general election.

•  Matching fund levels set high enough that they would have provided a full match with all Secretary of State candidates 2002 and 2006, for a level playing field in almost all cases.

•  Qualifying contributions required scaled up on a per-voter basis from Arizona and Maine qualifying levels that have proven high enough to exclude fringe candidates.

•  Allow third-party and independent candidates the opportunity to qualify for full funds in the general election if they gather twice the normal number of qualifying contributions.

•  Require participating candidates to engage in public debates:  two in the general election and one in the primary.

•  Require Independent Expenditure Committees to report expenditures or entering into contracts to make an expenditure within 24 hours.

•  Allow Cleanly funded candidates to place a 250 word statement in the voter information portion of the sample ballot and requires all government websites (local and state) to identify Clean candidates on the sample ballot and in any list of people running for office.

•  Level the playing field across the entire election by providing matching funds if primary candidates are attacked by high-spending private candidates from another party.

Why a Pilot Project?

•  Poll after poll shows voter anger and frustration with the current governmental process. The Media constantly covers campaign contributions made to members of the Legislature and the Governor and implies that these contributions affect public policy.

•  Running the pilot program for Secretary of State candidates will allow Clean Money to be tested in California in a low-cost statewide election for the official that directly supports and oversees our democratic process.  It will demonstrate the Legislature’s willingness to seriously tackle this thorny problem in a cost-effective manner.

•  California is a large state, with expensive elections.  While we know from experience in other states that the system proposed works, a pilot project for one election cycle will answer lingering concerns about the system’s details at a reduced cost.

•  A limited program will help uncover any unforeseen difficulties on a smaller scale and provide practical guidance in designing future public funding systems in California.

•  Allowing Californians to actually experience a publicly funded election will help the public to make a more informed decision about the desirability of setting up a Clean Money system for all statewide and legislative offices.

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