California’s campaign finance enforcement agency on Thursday announced new rules governing coordination between campaigns and outside groups making political expenditures. Under the rules, the Sacramento Bee reports, campaigns and independent organizations will be required to prove that coordination between the groups is not happening, increasing accountability on both sides.
When the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for largely unregulated outside spending with Citizens United and related decisions, it did so on the premise that campaigns would not coordinate with the outside organizations spending on their behalf. This claim has proven false — candidates have raised millions for their super PACs by pretending to be considering whether or not to run, and super PACs have taken over key campaign functions in the presidential primary battle.
In California, red flags will now go up if a candidate’s former staffers or family members jump ship to an outside group advocating for the candidate. This measure is designed to prevent the close relationships between campaigns and independent committees that have blossomed in the post-Citizens United landscape. Additionally, the new rules will limit candidates from fundraising for these outside organizations and try to prevent the kind of information sharing between the two sides that has made the independent group a quasi-unregulated arm of the modern campaign.
With their ability to spend unlimited sums, independent groups have become the new political money conduit, circumventing — and supporting — the contribution-limited campaigns that continue to benefit from this influx of cash at the local, state, and federal levels.
California’s anti-coordination measures are a sign of clear progress toward a political system where everyone plays by the same common-sense rules. We hope that more and more states and localities will implement effective ethics laws as part of the wide variety of proven solutions to give everyone a greater voice in their democracy.