Summary of Select Contributions to Jerry Brown-Controlled Campaign Committees Since 2007
The Kersten Institute has completed an initial analysis of state campaign finance records and found that campaign committees controlled by Gov. Jerry Brown have raised a total of $78 million in total contributions since Brown ran for Attorney General in 2007.
Gov. Brown's biggest contributors are the California Democratic Party and organized labor organizations which have contributed a total of $16.55 million or combined 21% of all contributions raised by Brown over the 2007-16 timeframe.
The biggest contributor to Brown's committees was the Democratic State Central Committee of California which has given a total of $9.1 million or about 12% of all contributions to Brown. Under the state's campaign finance laws, the California Democratic Party, which controls the Democratic State Central Committee, is not limited in the contributions it can make to Brown, and can also raise unlimited money from contributors who are otherwise limited in the amount they can give directly to Gov. Brown.
Organized labor organizations, primarily public employee unions but also private labor unions, gave Brown Committees a total of $7.45 million over the period or about 10% of total contributions.
Businesses, individuals and other organizations gave the remaining money in far small contribution amounts in terms of total dollars given by company and contributor category. (see summary table below for a list of some key contributors and the amounts given)
Of the $16.55 million Brown raised from the California Democratic Party and organized labor, the vast majority of that came from large contributions. Party and labor interest giving more than $20,000 represented only 0.6% of total contributors but gave a total of $13 million--the lion's share of the $16.55 million raised from such interests. In terms of numbers, these contributors represented 177 of the 29,840 in total contributions reported--0.6% of total contributions reported.
In terms all contributors to Brown Committees, a total of 871 contributors gave $20,000 or more, which is equal to $38.8 million or about half of the total money Brown raised.
A total of 4,530 contributors gave $5,000 or more, which is equal to $65 million of total contributions, or more than 80% of Brown's total campaign war chest.
As the table illustrates below, the contribution data highlights a gapping loophole in the state's campaign finance system where campaign contributions can be laundered through the California Democratic Party (and Republican Party) to avoid contribution limits to candidate campaigns.
Furthermore, individuals and businesses are limited to $28,200 in the amount they can legally give directly to candidates for Governor in a single election cycle, but can give unlimited amounts to the California Democratic or Republican Party committees. Those same party committees can then turn around and give unlimited sums to candidates--thereby skirting the state's campaign finance limits in a completely legal fashion.
More analysis needs to be done of Democratic Party and Republican Party Committee filings, but an initial review shows that the Democratic Party Committee raises significant additional dollars from organized labor, business and individual interests, which can give unlimited amounts. The Republican Party Committee raises the bulk of its money from business and individuals, with little or no money coming from organized labor.
Independent expenditure committees, which are unaffiliated with candidates, can also raise and spend unlimited sums of money.
These two major loopholes render the state's campaign finance limits essentially meaningless because they provide unlimited ability to skirt the law in a completely legal fashion.
In combination with placing limits on these two loopholes, the state should also consider lowering the contribution limits to the Governor and statewide offices to reduce the unfair and unequal influence of the top 1% of contributors on the system.
The Kersten Institute believes that large campaign contributors have far too great an influence on the state's political process.
Policy makers and good government advocates should consider additional campaign finance reforms to reduce the unfair influence of these special interests on the political process.
Few political observers doubt the integrity of Gov. Brown, but this analysis helps illustrate that he is the head of a state political system which is awash in special interest money and undue influence by a select group of powerful special interests.
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