FROM:   Kim Alexander, CVF President
DATE:   January 6, 1998
RE:   Federal judge strikes down CA's contribution limits

The decision is in: Judge Lawrence Karlton today struck down Proposition 208, a California initiative passed in December 1996 that severely restricted campaign finance practices. As of today, Proposition 208 is no longer in effect and California politicians are once again permitted to raise contributions of any amount.

While Karlton's decision in effect strikes down the entire measure, he did leave room for the California Supreme Court to implement those provisions that weren't found unconstitutional by Karlton. I have been informed that Karlton's decision imposes a "temporary injunction" against the Fair Political Practices Commission, forbidding that body from enforcing any of the terms of Proposition 208. However, Karlton also instructed the plaintiffs to take this case before the California Supreme Court in order to determine whether the unconstitutional provisions of Proposition 208 might be severed and stricken so that the court might preserve those parts of the initiative which the court found lawful.

So far I have been unable to find a copy of the Karlton decision online -- if anyone does find the decision on the Web, please send me the url so I can share it with CVF-NEWS right away. In the meantime, the only way I know of to get the decision is to contact the federal courthouse in Sacramento or find someone who has it and is willing to fax you the 43-page document (hopefully someday soon the district courts will catch up with the digital age).

I found a very brief story about Karlton's decision on the Sacramento Bee's website ( which is included below. More stories are sure to follow tomorrow.

Federal judge strikes down California contribution limits

Copyright © 1998 The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO (January 6, 1998 4:24 p.m. EST) -- A federal judge Tuesday struck down key portions of Proposition 208, the campaign contribution limits approved by California voters in November.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton concluded that the contribution limits were too low to pass constitutional muster.

Karlton was the judge who also struck down Proposition 73, a 1988 contribution limit that he said favored incumbents. That ruling was upheld on appeal.

Proposition 208, approved by 61 percent of voters, imposed stiff limits on contributions to state and local candidates. It allowed candidates for statewide office, for example, to accept up to $500 per election from most donors.

Political parties and so-called small contributor committees could give more.

The measure, which took effect last year, also allowed candidates to collect double the normal contributions if they accept spending limits.

Opponents, which included the Republican and Democratic parties, charged that the limits were too low, preventing candidates and parties from running effective campaigns and abridging their free-speech rights.

They said the contribution limits would encourage special interest groups to spend campaign money through independent committees and help wealthy candidates who are willing to spend their own fortunes get elected.

The measure's supporters disagreed, saying the proposition would weaken the influence of big-money donors.

Tony Miller, a co-author of the ballot measure and a former chief elections official for the state, said the ruling was a "huge victory" for political action committees, political parties and politicians.

"We lost a big battle but I predict that we will win the war," Miller said in a statement. "This decision will be appealed and I am confident that, as with term limits, the Court of Appeal will uphold the right of the people to regulate the way elections are conducted in California."

Back to CVF-NEWS index
Subscribe to CVF-NEWS
Contact Kim Alexander

Main Page

What's New




Contact Us

Support CVF

This page was first published on July 14, 1999 | Last updated on July 14, 1999
copyright 1994 - 1999, California Voter Foundation. All rights reserved.