$1 Billion in Political Cash Since Prop 34

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Voters supporting limits on campaign contributions would do well to remember the old adage that money will always find its way into politics, the same way water finds its way through the cracks of anything holding it back.

And a new report out today confirms just that, calculating the total amount raised by politicians and candidates on the legislative and statewide level at more than $1 billion since 2001.

The report was issued by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state agency tasked to be the watchdog over campaign finance issues.

The FPPC decided to tabulate all the cash raised into committees controlled by candidates and officeholders since the passage of Proposition 34, a ballot measure drafted by legislators that placed new (and, some would say, overly generous) rules on political donations.

Today's report finds that most of the money -- about $720 million -- was raised by committees focused on actual legislative or statewide races. But a sizeable amount was also funneled into committees formed to support or oppose ballot measures, officeholder accounts, committees formed for a race that the pol in question was never going to really run, etc. All, as the FPPC notes, are perfectly legal.

Not surprisingly, statewide candidates and officials have raised the most over the last eight years --- more than $424 million, according to the FPPC. But a relatively close second is candidates and officials in the Assembly, accounting for more than $376 million. Senate candidates and officials have raised a combined $206 million.

While the $1 billion figure includes quiet efforts to raise money known as "behested payments" (the subject of recent news coverage), it does not include the fast-growing practice of independent expenditures -- committees formed to oppose or support candidates but technically operating without the influence of said candidates. IE money totals more than $110 million since the passage of Prop 34.

In case the notion of $1 billion ($1,006,638,463 to be exact) doesn't hit home with you, consider the following written statement from FPPC chairman Ross Johnson:

"The $1,006,638,463 directly raised by officeholders and candidates works out to $344,503 per day or $14,354 per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year."

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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