California’s 1974 Political Reform Act serves to promote transparency and fairness in political and electoral processes. The act regulates a number of players in the political process, including:

  • Political Candidates
  • Public Officials
  • Ballot Measure Groups
  • Lobbyists and Lobbying Firms
  • Campaign Finances

First, the act requires that political candidates and ballot measure groups keep detailed records of their campaign contributions and expenditures and only use them for appropriate purposes. These rules include:

  • All contributions must be deposited into a designated campaign bank account before it can be spent
  • Itemized records of all expenditures must be maintained
  • Cash contributions and expenditures of more than $100 are prohibited
  • Campaigns must maintain records of any mass mailings or paid-for telephone calls
  • Campaign funds must only be used for political, legislative or governmental purposes and may not be used for individual private purposes

Limitations on Contributions

To promote equal treatment of all citizens by government officials, the act places limits on campaign contributions. This helps limit government influence from high capital entities. The specific limitations on contributions vary depending on the office a candidate is running for.


The act also seeks to monitor individuals and entities that serve to influence public officials and requires that all lobbyists register with the state and file reports showing receipts and expenditures of their lobbying activities. A lobbyist is defined as any party who is compensated for communicating directly with legislative officials to influence their activities.

Conflicts of Interest

To promote impartiality in the political process, the act requires that all public agencies adopt a conflict of interest code. These codes require that public officials file statements of economic interests and refrain from participating in political processes that affect their financial interests.

Statements of economic interest include a public official’s:

  • Investments
  • Interests in real property
  • Sources of income
  • Business positions
  • Enforcement

The Fair Political Practices Commission is charged with administering and enforcing the Political Reform Act. This includes:

  • Adopting and amending regulations
  • Educating the public and public officials on the rules
  • Investigating alleged violations
  • Imposing penalties for violations

Contacting an Attorney

If you have a government dispute, you should contact a criminal attorney to help resolve your issue.