January 12, 2005

Schwarzenegger initiative strategy news

The San Diego Union Tribune reports that Gov. Schwarzenegger may be willing to loosen legislative term limits in exchange for an agreement to take redistricting out of the hands of the California llegislature.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports about a group of Schwarzenegger confidantes who will raise substantial sums to support the governor's position on initiatives in the special election the governor is likely to call for June. The committee is important because of new California regulations that limit contributions to candidate-controlled ballot measure committees. Schwarzenegger's controlled committees can raise only $22,300 from individuals. These limits do not apply to independent committees.

This new committee, Citizens to Save California, is taking the position that it can consult with Schwarzenegger and follow his lead without Schwarzenegger being in "legal control" of the committee. I'm not so sure, and much depends upon how courts would construe the meaning of "control" under the new regulations (a point I discuss a bit in this paper). I think there's a strong argument that a committee made up of an officeholder's confidantes that coordinates its activities with the officeholder should be deemed as being "controlled" by the officeholder and subject to the limits.

There's also another new regulation that could come into play, one meant to prevent precisely the evasion we are about to witness with this new committee. This regulation (also discussed in my paper) imposes a $25,000 contribution limit on any ballot measure committee that spends at least $50,000 on advertisements within 45 days of an election that clearly identify a candidate for state office and that are made at the candidate’s “behest." There is sure to be litigation over what "behest" is, but it seems likely that the new committee will want to feature Schwarzenegger in its ads. His presence in ads in the last election seemed to help some initiatives and his absence, until near the end, in ads supporting reform of the California primary system (Prop. 62) is part of the explanation for why that initiative failed to pass.

Posted by Rick Hasen at January 12, 2005 08:20 AM