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Ex-Political Watchdog Chief Seeks California Fundraising Reform

Aired 3/26/13 on KPBS News.

Current rules allow special interests to write checks to lawmakers minutes before key votes.

California lawmakers spend a lot of time raising money while the state legislature is in session.

Now, a former head of the California Fair Political Practices Commission is pushing to ban the practice.

Former FPPC Chairman Dan Schnur said state senators and assembly members can schedule political fundraising breakfasts, lunches and dinners every day of the work week. Time devoted to raising money translates into numerous hours away from what the legislators were elected to do.

Schnur said there’s also an ethical problem.

“When a special interest writes a check to a legislator 15 or 20 minutes before that legislator casts a key vote on important legislation, there’s an implied quid pro, an implied transaction that’s extremely unseemly and sends a very, very bad message to the people of California," Schnur said.

Schnur, who now heads the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said he’s in the initial stage of gathering support for possible legislation prohibiting fundraising while lawmakers are at work. If the legislature rejects the idea, Schnur said there’s always the option of taking the matter to California voters through a ballot initiative.

"California voters have shown a real appetite for the initiative process in recent years," Schnur said.

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