The state political watchdog agency is considering reevaluating regulations of independent expenditure committees as a result of the continued high level and concentrated nature of spending in the 2009-2010 cycle so far.
Independent expenditure committees dropped nearly $17 million on primary races, according to an analysis released today by the Fair Political Practices Commission. Such committees can raise and spend unlimited amounts but are prohibited from coordinating with campaigns. Since tighter contribution limits for legislative and statewide candidates were enacted in 2000, these committees have spent more than $127 million.
"This level of uncontrolled special interest spending on both sides of the aisle has made the legal limits on contributions to candidates almost completely irrelevant," FPPC Chairman Dan Schnur said in a statement.
"It may be time for us to take a much closer look at the rules governing the use of independent committees," Schnur continued. "Those who are planning on funding these types of activities in the general election should consider this as their advance notice."
More than 60 percent of independent spending in the primary -- roughly $10.4 million -- was reported by the 10 committees that spent the most. Much of that spending was funneled into several high-profile races.
Expenditures targeting the nonpartisan superintendent of public instruction race were reported by three groups on the list, including the No. 1 spender, EdVoice. It spent nearly $1.5 million, roughly 73 percent of its total expenditures, on Sen.Gloria Romero's failed bid to make the runoff.
Three top-spending committees also played heavily in the 40th Senate District Democratic primary, where just a handful of votes currently separates Assemblywoman Mary Salas and former Assemblyman Juan Vargas. Expenditures targeting the 15th Senate District race landed two committees a spot on the list.
Click here to read the full list.
An earlier version of this post's headline incorrectly stated that groups spent more than $17 million. It was under $17 million.