California lawmakers find little financial support from constituents
May 18, 2010
• They raise 79 percent of funds from outside their districts
• ‘Instead of a voter democracy, we have a donor democracy’
California lawmakers raised 79 percent of campaign funds from outside their districts, according to a study released Tuesday by the nonpartisan research group MAPLight.org, a Berkeley group that tracks the money flowing to politicians and how they then vote on legislation.
Only one dollar out of five – if that -- came from people or organizations within their districts, the report says.
MAPLight.org says California legislators raised $97.9 million in campaign funds during the three-year time period studied, January 2007 to March 2010. Of this amount, $77.5 million (79 percent) came from out-of-district, while $11.9 (12 percent) came from in-district. The remaining $8.6 million, or 9 percent, could not be definitively located as in-district or out of district.
More than half of the lawmakers, 58 percent, raised 80 percent or more of their campaign funds from outside their districts (68 out of 117 members). Nineteen lawmakers raised 90 percent or more of their funds from outside their districts. No lawmaker raised more than half of their funds from in-district, where their constituents live.
"Not a single legislator in California raised the majority of their campaign funds from in-district, where their voters live," says Daniel Newman, MAPLight.org executive director. "Instead of a voter democracy, we have a donor democracy."
With out-of-district fundraising at nearly 80 percent, the problem is not with a few bad apples, but with a rotten barrel, says Mr. Newman.
This remote control system works well for wealthy interest groups, but not for voters, he says.
MAPLight.org located each contribution as in-district or out-of-district based on the street address of the contributor. The study used campaign contribution data from the National Institute for Money in State Politics.
This study includes reported contributions from January 1, 2007 through March 17, 2010 to campaign committees for Assembly and state Senate, excluding contributions from political parties and candidates. The study examined contributions given to 79 Assembly members and 40 Senators: all legislators who were serving as of August 31, 2009.
We used campaign contribution data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics as of April 29, 2010, whose data is based on reports that candidates and contributors are required to file with the California Secretary of State. Azavea, a software firm specializing in mapping solutions, located each contribution in a district for MAPLight.org.