Blogging Assembly Member Loni Hancock is carrying a bill to implement public financing of elections: AB 583 - California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act of 2005.
The Bee quotes Bob Stern, "architect of the state's Political Reform Act," on his support of the reform. His take: public financing would result in more competitive elections and less special interest influence, resulting in a public confidence boost for electeds.
Stern estimates the cost at $70 million a year (to which I say: and how much more for the people outside the L.A. media market?).
The measure lowers the amount candidates foregoing public money are allowed to accept from donors and slaps violators with criminal penalities - something Stern thinks necessary since FPPC actions and fines just haven't shamed offenders the way PRA authors had planned.
Stern thought the "embarrassment of being fined by the FPPC" would make people feel so bad they wouldn't violate the law again. He was wrong.
Well, yeah, duh. Aside from the media and political consultants, no one really checks up on campaign contribution violations. In fact, ironically, it seems that campaign finance violation penalties do little more than encourage opponents of those violators to raise and spend more money publicizing said violations. Go fig. In that regard, PRA requirements amount to state-funded oppo research. Look - CalAccess has everything you need to hang high your opponent, the cheating, money-raising bastard!
As for the bill itself:
First off, any bill that defines the term "one party dominant legislative district" makes me twitch. There are debate requirements (adding some fun "compulsion to speak" shades to the usual "freedom of speech" issues that plague campaign finance reform efforts), "seed money" provisions, prohibitions on to whom voters can give some kind of oddly-formulated $5 initial qualifying contributions, and seems to contain no provisions pro-rating money on the practical costs of campaigning in vastly different regions of the state (though, direct mail is always the most adventageous use of candidates' coffers, and mail is mail).
This proposal seems to be fairly vulnerable to attack - legally as well as politically. We'll keep tabs on it . . . .