Senator Jerry Hill Introduces Legislation Requiring Non-Profits to Disclose Donors That Fund Travel by Legislators and Other Elected Officials
Transparency Provision Enhances SB 831, Introduced Earlier This Year by Hill in Response to Public Outcry Over Use of Campaign Money
SACRAMENTO – State Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, today amended legislation to require non-profits that pay for trips taken by members of the Legislature and other state and local officials elected in California to disclose to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) the names of donors that funded the travel.
Currently, non-profits do not have to disclose the source of travel funding, preventing the public from knowing who was behind the gift to the elected official.
Hill’s transparency provision was amended into Senate Bill 831, which he introduced earlier this year to modernize California’s 1974 Political Reform Act. The bill, among other restrictions, would ban elected officials from moving campaign funds to non-profits owned or operated by members of their families.
Because it makes changes to the voter-approved California Political Reform Act, governing disclosure of political money, SB 831 requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. SB 831 now includes all of the following reforms:
Ø Prohibiting elected officials from contributing campaign funds to nonprofits owned or operated by their family members.
Ø Prohibiting elected officials from asking people to donate to a nonprofit owned or operated by a family member.
Ø Prohibiting elected officials from contributing campaign funds to nonprofits operated by another elected official on the same governing body.
Ø Prohibiting elected officials from contributing campaign funds to nonprofits owned or operated by other elected officials' family members.
Ø Increasing transparency of “behested” payments to and from elected officials by lowering the reporting threshold from $5,000 to $2,500 and requiring the FPPC to post the transactions on its website within 30 days.
Ø Creating a limit of $5,000 for travel-related gifts to elected officials from nonprofits and other groups. Currently, there is no limit on the amount of money elected officials can receive from groups for travel. Elected officials would have to use campaign or personal funds for travel-related expenditures exceeding $5,000 in a calendar year from a single source.
Ø Prohibiting the expenditure of campaign funds for an elected official’s mortgage, rent, utility bills, clothing, club memberships, vacations, tuition, tickets for sporting and entertainment events, vehicles, and gifts to family members.
Ø New provision: Requiring non-profits that pay for legislator travel to disclose to the FPPC the name of the donors responsible for funding the travel. Currently non-profits do not have to disclose the source of travel funding preventing the public from knowing who was behind the gift to the elected official.
A Common Cause report released in December found that in 2012 state elected officials solicited or received $6.7 million in behested payments. Since 2000, state elected officials solicited or received over $109 million in behested payments from various companies, organizations and nonprofits.
On March 5, 2014 an analysis by the Sacramento Bee found that California lawmakers received more than $550,000 in travel-related expenses from outside organizations in 2013. In 2012 lawmakers received $329,000 in travel expenses from outside organizations.
The Fair Political Practices Commission defines behested payments as “contributions solicited by members of the Assembly, Senate and statewide elected officers. These payments are not considered campaign contributions or gifts, but are payments made at the ‘behest’ of elected officials to be used for legislative, governmental or charitable purposes.”
State law requires the reporting of behested payments only if they total $5,000 or more per year from a single source. There are no reporting requirements for behested payments up to $4,999.99.
For Immediate Release - Office of Senator Jerry Hill – March 20, 2014
Contact: Aurelio Rojas, 916-747-3199 cell
Office of Senator Jerry Hill