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State imposes campaign spending limits
campaign cash

The Ceres City Council weighed in on the matter of campaign contribution limits at Monday’s meeting and decided to go with the standard set by the state.

City Attorney Tom Hallinan presented to the council the issue after the state passed AB 571.

Candidates running for office in Ceres are not subject to contribution limits but the new state law, signed into law by Gov. Newsom in 2019, dictates contribution limits for candidates for City office, effective on Jan. 1.

Under AB 571, candidates for City office will be subject to a $4,700 contribution limit from a single source per election cycle. The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) will periodically adjust this limit to account for inflation; or a city has the option to set its own limits that will not be subject to the contribution limits set by AB 571. 

The new state law also limits transfers of campaign funds from one controlled committee to another controlled committee of the same candidate; and limits loans to a candidate’s campaign. AB 571 provides three exemptions from contribution limits: 

• Candidate facing a recall can establish a committee to oppose the recall and can accept contributions in excess of the contribution limits set by AB 571;

• Candidates may accept contributions after an election to pay off debts from the election;

• Candidates can carry over contributions from one election to pay for expenses for a subsequent election for the same office.

If a City Council does not wish to be subject to AB 571 contribution limits, it can adopt its own contribution limits and can establish limits higher or lower than the FPPC limits. If the new City Council decides to go this route, city staff will have to prepare an ordinance or resolution. By establishing its own contribution limits, candidates for city office will not be subject to state limitations on contributions. However, the exemptions from the contribution limits will not apply. In addition, the City Council must establish penalties for violations of the contribution limits and bear the cost of the enforcement.

The FPPC will not enforce any city’s contribution limits. Penalties for violating a city’s contribution limits may include civil penalties, fines, or criminal charges. In establishing contribution limits, any city must ensure that it complies with the First Amendment. Accordingly, any city must ensure that contribution limits are not too low as to prevent candidates from conducting an effective campaign.