Dan Schnur is on the cusp of taking on two seemingly contradictory campaigns: One promotes new restrictions on political fundraising. The other involves running for office, complete with his own political fundraising apparatus.
Schnur, a former Republican adviser who now teaches politics at the University of Southern California, said he's in the "final stages" of preparing a run for California Secretary of State in 2014. Other likely candidates include Democratic state Sens. Leland Yee and Alex Padilla; Democrat Derek Cressman, a government watchdog; and Republican Pete Peterson, who heads an academic public policy institute.
Schnur left the Republican party in 2011, after a stint chairing California's Fair Political Practices Commission. He said he would run for secretary of state as a nonpartisan, and has assembled a campaign staff that includes prominent Democratic and Republican consultants and fundraisers.
At the same time, Schnur said he will continue a publicity campaign he launched earlier this year to argue for new limits on political fundraising. Legislators and statewide office holders shouldn't be able to raise money for their re-election campaigns during the legislative session, Schnur says, because there is too much potential for donors to exert inappropriate influence on their votes. He wants to ban fundraising while the Legislature is in session.
Schnur said his two approaches -- speaking out against political fundraising while engaging in the fundraising efforts necessary to run a statewide campaign -- are not at all contradictory.
"We look at this candidacy as the most effective way of moving that fundraising ban forward," Schnur said. "A candidate campaign allows for broader conversation about how to fix a broken system than a single ballot initiative might."
The Secretary of State oversees elections in California, including campaign finance filings. But the office can't unilaterally change the laws on political fundraising. Still, Schnur said the position would give him a strong pulpit from which to advocate the changes he seeks.
He's also hoping legislation will be introduced in January that would put new limits on political fundraising, but says, "legislative bodies don't have a particularly honorable record of reforming their own practices."
Schnur has yet to officially file his candidacy for Secretary of State so he hasn't begun raising campaign money. Some of his opponents, on the other hand, are well on their way. As of June 30, records show that Padilla had $355,265; Yee $299,220; Cressman $44,508; and Peterson $12,799.
"I'd be willing to forgo fundraising during the legislative session if my opponents would agree to the same restriction and return any money they've raised during prior legislative sessions," Schnur said.
PHOTO: Dan Schnur, shown in September 2010 when he was chair of the FPPC. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua