After almost 15 years as an elected officeholder, Senator Alex Padilla decided this week that politicians shouldn’t be raising campaign money and making laws at the same time.  Armed with this newly-found perspective, Padilla introduced a smaller, slighter, weaker version of a ban on fundraising during legislative session that I first proposed in the summer of 2012.

Senator Padilla’s version of the ban is a good start, but it must be strengthened significantly before it can realistically weaken the link between political giving and government action and restore sanity to an out-of-control fundraising arms race in Sacramento. If this is a legitimate effort by Senator Padilla to help us begin to fix a broken system of politics, rather than a belated effort to bolster his campaign for Secretary of State during his last months before being forced from the legislature by term limits, then his bill must meet the following standards:

1)   Calendar – Senator Padilla’s bill calls for a ban only during the last 100 days of legislative session, rather than the entire session as I have proposed. While he is correct that the last weeks of session often involve the most-high stakes legislative decision, the months that his proposal does not cover include time when bills are introduced and amended, when key committee hearings are held, and when citizens who can not afford to attend fundraising events visit the Capitol to advocate for policy changes to improve their lives and the lives of their families. The ban must include the entire session, not a fraction of it.

2 2) Incumbents/Challengers – When I first proposed this ban in August of 2012, I originally suggested that it cover both incumbents and challengers. However, several smart people of both parties pointed out to me that incumbents are in a position to raise money much more quickly than challengers and that a ban that included challengers as well would simply intensify the advantages of incumbency. In addition, there may be legal and perhaps constitutional problems to imposing this ban on challengers, since they do not face the inherent conflict-of-interest problems of a sitting officeholder. The ban must cover incumbents but not challengers.

3 3) Solicitation — In order to keep from increasing the flow of political money to independent entities even more, incumbent officeholders should be prohibited from soliciting contributions for their own campaign committees, but also from raising money for other candidates, parties, caucuses, ballot initiatives, Super PACs, or any other political organization while the legislature is in session. This ban would cover all spoken, written, and electronic solicitations from officeholders and their consultants, staff and other representatives. The ban must cover all political fundraising, not just the officeholder’s own campaign.

(More information on my proposal is available at:

If Senator Padilla is willing to strengthen his bill to meet those three standards, I will be both a willing and eager supporter of it. But without those standards in place, voters will simply dismiss it as the work of a career politician looking for cover during a time when an ongoing series of scandals consume the State Capitol.

(I applaud Senator Padilla for his suggestion to extend the ban on fundraising for a full week after session concludes. It’s an improvement over my own proposal for a three -day extension: I support this aspect of his proposal wholeheartedly.)

I also welcome Senator Padilla’s support on other fronts. During my time as Chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the bi-partisan task force that I appointed to develop recommendations for updating the Political Reform Act proposed 24 hour disclosure of all campaign contributions. While Senator Padilla’s disclosure legislation falls far short of that goal, it is a nice step in the right direction.

More recently, I have called for limiting candidates to one single campaign committee rather than maintaining several at the same time. Senator Padilla, who maintained three separate committees of his own until a few weeks ago, is now a welcome convert to this idea. I have also proposed allowing candidates to open campaign committees only for the current election cycle rather than opening them years before those campaigns will actually take place. Both of these practices allow politicians to raise multiple donations from sources eager to buy access. I hope Senator Padilla will join me in closing both of these loopholes rather than just one.

I must reluctantly note that Senator Padilla’s legislation was not mentioned yesterday on either his government or campaign website, nor has the concept of fundraising reform been addressed on his campaign website for the last several months. My hope is that his lack of emphasis does not reflect a lack of commitment to these reforms, but rather a slow-developing plan for building voter support for his ideas. If the latter is the case, I will happily join him in those efforts – as soon as he strengthens the proposals to turn them into meaningful reform.

Dan Schnur, the former chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, is a candidate for California secretary of state.