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Report: State lawmakers skirt contribution limits

  • FILE -- In this Jan. 23, 2013 file photo, Gov. Jerry Brown gives his State of the State address before a joint session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, have proposed indentical bills that would require all legislation to be in print and online 72 hours before it can come to a vote. Both bills would be constitutional amendments and would have to be approved by the voters. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers are circumventing campaign finance limits through "ballot measure" committees that set no caps on the amount donors can contribute, according to a report.

The committees allow legislators to ask contributors for more than the $4,100 per election they can solicit for their own campaigns.

The accounts must be used to support or oppose any ballot measure, but that can include proposals still in the development stage that might never see the light of day, the Sacramento Bee reported (http://bit.ly/12Fy3l9).

Over the past two years legislators collected $2.7 million through these committees. A Bee review found some of those funds were used to pay for items with questionable connections to ballot measures — including thank-you gifts to donors, a lawmaker's tuition and contributions to nonprofits. Some lawmakers spent the money on out-of-state fundraisers.

Filtering contributions through the committees can "kill two birds with one stone" for donors, said Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance and ethics expert at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

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