SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Candidates or lawmakers who illegally use campaign contributions for personal expenses would have to pay an equal amount to the state treasury under a bill passed by the Assembly.
AB2692 by Democratic Assemblyman Paul Fong of Cupertino passed Monday 69-0 and heads to the Senate.
The California Fair Political Practices Commissions, the state's campaign watchdog agency, can issue fines of $5,000 per count for campaign expenses unrelated to politics or legislation. Fong's bill would require violators to pay the cash value of personal expenses on top of the fines.
The bill does not respond to a specific incident, but recent cases have highlighted questionable spending. Former Democratic state Senate leader Dean Florez agreed last fall to $60,000 in fines for using campaign donations for furniture, ski trips and concert tickets.
Meanwhile, the state Senate has approved reducing the gift limit for lawmakers by more than half in an effort to improve the Legislature's image after a string of ethical lapses and criminal charges.
Senators on Monday passed SB1443 by Democratic Sen. Kevin De Leon 34-0, sending it to the Assembly.
The bill reduces the $440 gift limit to $200 while banning all presents from lobbyists. It also bans the most eyebrow-raising perks for state officials, such as massages and tickets to Disneyland. Current law allows monthly gifts of $10 from lobbyists.
De Leon says the legislation is needed "to bolster the public's confidence in California's elected officials."
Three Democratic state senators who faced serious legal trouble have been suspended while a prominent lobbyist was fined for lavish fundraisers at his home.