The Mission of the Law
The mission of the Political Reform Act is to serve as the legal bedrock of governmental ethics in California. It regulates:
- Campaign Finance
- Financial Conflicts of Interest by Public Officials
- Lobbyist Registration and Reporting
- Post-Governmental Employment
- Political Mass Mailings at Public Expense
- Gifts and Honoraria given to Public Officials and Candidates
The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has primary responsibility for the impartial and effective administration of the Political Reform Act.
Why Was the Act Passed?
Before the Act there were few rules governing the conduct of elected officials, campaigns, and lobbyists. Many considered politics to be similar to the “wild west,” where lobbyists could give gifts to members of the legislature without restriction, and campaign contributions could be made in cash without disclosing the source. There was little transparency, and trust in government was at an all-time low.
Then in the early 1970s, a major political scandal occurred in the United States that ultimately led to the resignation of the president – Watergate. In this volatile political environment, a coalition of reformers presented a statewide ballot initiative to California voters that they claimed would “put an end to corruption in politics.” The initiative was approved by more than 70 percent of California voters in 1974, forming the Act and the FPPC.
How Has the Law Evolved?
Lawmakers and voters have changed the Act over time to account for the ever-changing landscape of campaign finance and to ensure the integrity of California’s public officials. For example, ballot measures such as Proposition 208 (1998) and Proposition 34 (2000) dramatically altered the rules every candidate and elected official must follow when running for office.
Implementing the Law - Regulations
In addition to statutory changes in the Act, the FPPC has also played a role in fine-tuning the landmark law to achieve its goals. In order to provide specific guidelines to candidates, committees, treasurers, public officials, and other members of the regulated community, the FPPC adopts the regulations that implement the Act.
For more information about the Act, head to the FPPC's Political Reform Act page.