| Text of Proposed Law | This - 208 | Argument in Favor |

Analysis of Proposition 208

by the Legislative Analyst


Campaign Contribution and Spending Limits. Federal law limits the amount of money individuals and groups can contribute to a candidate and to the candidate's campaign committee for federal elective office. State law generally does not impose similar limits on state and local campaigns. However, some local governments in California have established such limits for local elective offices.

In addition, current state law contains no limits on the amounts of personal loans or personal funds candidates can use for their own elections. Also, there are no aggregate limits on what individuals and groups can contribute to all candidates for state and local elective offices. Furthermore, there are no prohibitions on lobbyists making, transmitting, or arranging campaign contributions. Finally, there are no limits on the amounts of money candidates, their campaign committees, or other groups in support of the candidate, can spend in any election.

Reporting Requirements. Both state and federal law require candidates for elective office to report contributions they receive and spend for their campaigns. In addition, state law requires that lobbyists register with the Secretary of State's office.

Court Review. The specific provisions of this measure have not been reviewed by either state or federal courts. In California and other states, a few provisions similar to those contained in this measure have been challenged in court and have been invalidated.


This measure makes a number of changes to current state law regarding campaign contributions and spending. Specifically, the measure:

Limits on Campaign Contributions

Limits on Contributions to a Single Candidate. The measure establishes limits on the amount of political campaign contributions that an individual, group (including a business, labor organization, or political action committee), or political party may make to a candidate for statewide office (such as the Governor), the state Legislature, and local elective office. Figure 1 summarizes these limits. As discussed later, these contribution limits approximately double if a candidate agrees to specified campaign spending limits. This measure prohibits the transfer of campaign funds from one candidate to another. This measure does not set limits for any candidates for federal office.

Limits on Contributions to All Candidates. The measure restricts the total amount an individual, business, labor organization, or political action committee, can contribute to all candidates to no more than $25,000 in any two-year period. Contributions from political parties are limited to no more than 25 percent of the voluntary spending limit for the office.

Other Limits. The measure limits the total amount of loans a candidate may make to his or her campaign. These limits are $50,000 for candidates for Governor and $20,000 for all other candidates. Officeholders and candidates are prohibited from soliciting or receiving contributions from, or arranged by, lobbyists.

Figure 1

Proposition 208
Campaign Contribution Limits a

Candidate for:
ContributorLegislative and
Local Elective
Business, labor
organization, and
political action
Political partyNo more than
25 percent of
spending limits
for each office.
No more than
25 percent of
spending limits
for each office.
''Small Contributor
Committee" c
Transfer from
other candidate
a Assumes candidate does not accept campaign spending limits. If spending
limits are accepted, then contribution limits approximately double, except
for contributions from political parties.
b These limits are for districts with 100,000 or more residents. Districts with
fewer than 100,000 residents have lower contribution limits.
c Defined by the measure as a committee with 100 or more members, none of
whom contribute more than $50 to the committee in a calendar year, and is
not controlled by any candidate.

Voluntary Campaign Spending Limits

The measure establishes voluntary campaign spending limits for state offices, as shown in Figure 2. Local governments would be allowed to set spending limits, but the limits cannot be any more than $1 per resident. The measure requires that before accepting campaign contributions, a candidate must file a statement declaring whether he or she agrees to accept spending limits.

Higher Contribution Limits and Access to Ballot Pamphlets. Candidates who accept the voluntary spending limits are allowed to receive double the contribution limits shown in Figure 1. For example, a candidate for the state Legislature who agrees to accept the voluntary spending limits could receive a campaign contribution of $500 from an individual, while a candidate who does not accept the voluntary spending limits would be limited to a contribution of $250. Contribution limits from political parties, however, would not change. In addition to being allowed to receive higher contribution amounts, candidates who accept the voluntary spending limits would be so identified on the ballot and in ballot pamphlets. These candidates also would be entitled to place a statement free-of-charge in the applicable state or local ballot pamphlet. Candidates who do not accept the spending limits may also place a statement in the ballot pamphlet, but would have to pay the costs of printing, handling, and mailing the statement.

Figure 2

Proposition 208
Voluntary Campaign Spending Limits

Election Limit
Election Limit
State Assembly$150,000$200,000
State Senate300,000400,000
Statewide office
(other than Governor) a
a Such as Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and State Treasurer.

Restrictions on When Contributions May Be Accepted

This measure places restrictions on when campaign contributions may be accepted. For any elective office that serves fewer than one million residents, no candidate or campaign committee may accept contributions more than six months before any primary, or special primary election. For larger districts and statewide offices, candidates and their committees are prohibited from accepting contributions more than 12 months prior to any primary or special primary election. Fund-raising for all candidates must end 90 days after the date of the election or the date of their withdrawal from the election.

Other Provisions

Penalties and Enforcement. This measure increases penalties for violations of campaign law. Enforcement of the measure's provisions can either be through governmental agencies, such as the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), a county district attorney, or a city attorney. In addition, any person who resides in the candidate's jurisdiction would be allowed to sue a candidate who violates the reporting provisions of the measure.

Disclosure of Major Donors. he measure requires that campaign advertisements for or against ballot measures disclose the name of donors making contributions above specified levels.


This measure would result in additional costs to the state and local governments. Based on information provided by the FPPC and the Secretary of State, we estimate that the costs for implementation and enforcement would be up to $4 million annually. The measure includes an annual General Fund appropriation of $500,000 to the FPPC to partially offset these costs. In addition, the measure would result in additional state and local election costs to provide additional information on candidates in voter pamphlets. These costs are unknown, but are probably not significant.

| Text of Proposed Law | This - 208 | Argument in Favor |