Money in Politics

Learn more about LWV California's and the National League's position and research on this issue.


Millions of campaign $$$$$ are flowing everywhere in our elections. Tracking the money path can be challenging because the information is patchy and found in different places. The League of Women Voters can help you find out who is funding political campaigns and how much money is being spent.

The Role of Money in California Politics

Bring Sunshine to Campaigns!

2013-2014 Money in Politics Bills

The LWVC is supporting campaign disclosure bills to help voters follow the money and see who is funding political activity. These bills increase transparency, improve the disclosure process, and close the loophole that allows nonprofits to contribute huge sums in California elections without disclosure. Read our fact sheet.

"Dark Money" News!

On October 24, 2013, the California Fair Political Practices Commission announced a settlement in the case of secret money donated to the campaign to defeat Proposition 30 and support Proposition 32 in the November 2012 election. The settlement includes a record $1 million fine, based on two donations, one for $4 million, and one for $11 million. Neither of these donations were properly reported according to California law. The Sacramento Bee story is here.

In January 2014, the FPPC announced that in addition to the $1 million in fines imposed on the nonprofits that made the donations, judgments had been obtained against the California committees that accepted the money. Those committees were ordered to forfeit to the state General Fund the amounts they had accepted in laundered funds, a total of $15 million. Although both committees accepted the judgment, only $300,000 has been paid to the state. Even so, the FPPC’s chief enforcement officer pointed out that the combined penalties will be “a serious deterrent to any future efforts to hide the true source of money spent in California elections.” Read more.

SB 27: Preventing Dark Money Contributions in  Future Campaigns

In order to ensure that cases like this are not repeated, the LWVC strongly supports SB 27 (Correa) , which will ensure that the original sources of all political donations are reported. SB 27:

  • Establishes conditions under which nonprofits and other organizations that make campaign contributions or expenditures are required to disclose the names of their donors
  • Requires the FPPC Web site to include a list of the largest contributors to committees that support or oppose state ballot measures or candidates
  • Will take effect July 1, 2014.

Follow the Money

Millions of campaign $$$$$ are flowing everywhere in our elections. You can track some campaign financing and public funding for federal and state elections. Information available on the Web will allow you to discover who is contributing money, who receives the money and how the money is spent on two different websites.

Follow the Money: Elections 2012

Candidates and Elected Officials

 CAL-ACCESS: Statewide Campaign Financing Information 

The California Secretary of State provides links to various areas of financial information about candidates, campaigns statewide and by state Senate and Assembly campaigns.

Ballot Measure Campaigns: 

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC)

 The FPPC website tracks contributions from major donors to the state ballot measures. 

CAL-ACCESS: Statewide Campaign Financing Information : Propositions & Ballot Measures

The California Secretary of State provides links to various areas of financial information about campaigns supporting and opposing propositions and ballot measures.

How to Navigate the Cal-Access website:Start here to view propositions and ballot measures:

On the web page Propositions and Ballot Measures, you must first, choose an Election cycle:

  •  2011 and 2012, or
  •  “Historical” for links to information about financial activity in elections during 1999-2010.

CLICK on the name of a proposition to see a list of all of the political committees formed to support or oppose that particular proposition. 

 View Information:choose

  General Information page and you will see a list of committees supporting or opposing the ballot measure.

  • CLICK on the name of a committee to see a summary of contributions and expenditures through the latest reporting period (e.g.,through 6/30/10).
Use your browser's back button to return to the proposition title page

 View Information also provides more links to pages providing detailed information regarding:

  • contributions received and contributions made
  • expenditures made and late independent expenditures
  • late and $5000+ contributions received and late contributions made after the last reporting period
  • electronic filings

The Contributions Received page has the detail of all contributions through the latest reporting period.

The Late and $5000+ Contributions Received page has the detail of late and larger contributions included under “Contributions Received” plus large contributions made subsequently.

To get complete information on the most significant contributions, it is necessary to gather information from both of these Web pages. You can download the information from both pages into an Excel worksheet, which allows for easier filtering of the data.

To start another search, go to the Menu on the upper left hand side of the page and choose Proposition and Ballot Measures.

Use the PRint/PDF icon at the top of the page to print these instructions.

Campaign Finance Regulations

State Elections – The Role of Money in California Politics

The Secretary of State’s Political Reform Division administers provisions of the California Political Reform Act. The revolutionary law, passed overwhelmingly by the voters in 1974, requires that, ”receipts and expenditures in election campaigns should be fully and truthfully disclosed in order that the voters may be fully informed…”

Detailed disclosure is required from campaigns supporting or opposing state and local candidates and ballot measures. Expenditures made lobbying the state Legislature must also be disclosed.

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), created by the Political Reform Act, regulates:

  • campaign financing and spending
  •  financial conflicts of interest
  •  lobbyist registration and reporting
  • post-governmental employment
  • mass mailings at public expense
  • gifts and honoraria given to public officials and candidates.

Federal Elections – the Role of Money in Congressional, Senate and Presidential Elections

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) administers and enforces the campaign financing laws governing federal elections. The duties of the FEC include enforcing limits and prohibitions on contributions, disclosure of campaign finance information and overseeing the public funding of Presidential elections.

Who is funding Senate and Congressional campaigns in California? Follow this link on the FEC Web site for Summary Disclosure Reports, by state, candidate or party.

Learn more about the federal campaign finance regulations and requirements with Quick Answers on the FEC Web site.

Our Work Nation-Wide On Campaign Finance Reform

We work with Leagues across the country on campaign finance reform. We have an extensive history of working on this subject. We also have clear priorities and goals. Read more about this on our national League web site.



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