Friday, May 21, 2010

New study finds California lawmakers receive 79% of campaign money from out-of-district

This week Maplight, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization shining a light on money in politics, released a new study, titled Remote Control, highlighting the findings of a data analysis of California lawmakers' campaign contributions.  The study found that 79 percent of the funds raised by California lawmakers come from outside of the district.  Maplight uses data compiled by the National Institute for Money in State Politics, which gets its raw data from California's online campaign finance disclosure data.

The study highlights how many incumbents who are in what would be considered "safe seats" nonetheless raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, generally to ensure their place of power within their caucus in the Capitol.  Not surprisingly, the Remote Control study found that four zip codes in Sacramento rate among the top ten donor zip codes; Sacramento is home to hundreds of lobbyists who attend dozens of fundraisers every year in order to gain the access they need to succeed in the legislative process.

It's exciting to see this kind of advanced analysis being conducted of California political fundraising.  This is not the only eye-opening research study that Maplight has conducted; the web site offers a bounty of fascinating findings as well as the opportunity to look up your own legislator's outside money and donations from interest groups.  While the Secretary of State's Cal-Access disclosure site is a fantastic resource, many voters do not have the time, computing power or familiarity with campaign disclosure to make much sense of raw online campaign finance data.  Maplight is providing a great public service by analyzing that data and turning into knowledge that voters will find useful.

On Monday, May 24 at 10 a.m. I will be on Capital Public Radio's Insight show along with Maplight's executive director, Daniel Newman, discussing this new study and campaign finance trends in California. Tune in online for a live audiocast.

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