Cashing in on the Campaign: The Personal Use of Campaign Funds in California

Ray La Raja, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Jonathan G.S. Koppell, Montclair State University
Christine Trost, University of California - Berkeley

This project was conducted under the supervision of Professor Bruce E. Cain, Robson Professor of Political Science and Acting Director of the Institutefor Governmental Studies. The research was underwritten by the Colonel Charles T. and Louise H. Trovers Program in Ethics and Accountability in Government and sponsored jointly by the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley and the Institute for Governmental Studies. The authors would liketo express their appreciation to Rachel Davidson who assisted with research.


The "professionalization " of legislatures has reduced opportunities for elected officials to earn outside income as tightened ethics laws have cutoff sources of illicit income. This has turned attention to one of the last remaining sources of potential material benefit for political candidates: their campaign treasuries. This paper examines the issue of personal use of campaign funds with particular focus on California's efforts to regulate this area of campaign finance. Although few regard this as the most serious problem in the American campaign finance system it suggests lessons for other areas. The authors offer policy recommendations based on comparison of personal use regulations in California, other states and at the federal level. Among these recommendations are the use of explicit lists of permitted and prohibited expenditures, education of candidates and their staff, and greater reliance on public disclosure as a check against abuse.