Despite new restrictions on political contributions, Sen. Ruben Ayala (D-Chino) and Assemblyman Charles Bader (R-Pomona) already have collected more than a quarter of a million dollars each for their face-off in 1990.
Neither will say how much they hope to raise for next year's state Senate election. But Bader said that some recent Senate candidates have spent up to $2 million. And Ayala, exuding confidence about his reelection chances, said Bader "may need $2 million," because he is not as well-known in the district.
Their aggressive fund raising has produced 30% of the more than $1.1 million that has been collected by campaign committees for the San Gabriel Valley's 15 state legislators in the first half of this year.
Ayala raised $185,481 and Bader raised $156,727 since Jan. 1. Adding that money to funds already on hand, each man had nearly $270,000 in cash at the end of June.
The solicitation of political funds appears to have been unhampered by the new contribution limits that took effect in January. Individuals and corporations are permitted to give up to $1,000 a year to a candidate, and broad-based political action committees can give no more than $5,000 a year. These limitations are part of Proposition 73, passed by voters last year.
Ayala said the restrictions "don't bother me in the least." As long as rules apply equally to Democrats and Republicans, he said, he won't complain.
But Ayala said the whole fund-raising business has become "very confusing" because voters last year approved two campaign-financing initiatives and the rules are still being interpreted by the state Fair Political Practices Commission and the courts. Although he might know the rules one day, he didn't know "what the rules will be next week," Ayala said.
Ayala and Bader stepped up fund raising in the first half of this year because Proposition 73 established contribution limits according to the fiscal year, from July 1 to June 30. Thus, each campaign could ask a donor for $1,000 before June 30 and still collect another $1,000 during the next 12 months.
A court decision earlier this month gave both campaigns another incentive to rush their fund-raising efforts. That ruling could prevent candidates from collecting any money from October through the end of this year.
The state Court of Appeal upheld a provision of Proposition 68 that bans fund raising in non-election years but delayed implementation until October.
The Fair Political Practices Commission put most of Proposition 68 on hold last year because of conflicts with Proposition 73. Although both measures were approved in June, 1988, Proposition 73 received more votes, giving its provisions priority. But the Court of Appeal ruled that the fund-raising ban in off-years can take effect because it is not in conflict with any of the provisions in Proposition 73.
Bader said Proposition 73's contributions limits and its rule prohibiting one politician from transferring campaign funds to other candidates have ended political abuses that were damaging the state. No longer will state legislative leaders be able to raise millions of dollars from special interests and then dole out the money to candidates, he said. Instead, candidates will have to raise money themselves from a large number of contributors.
Nonetheless, Bader said, ways will be found to circumvent the contribution limits. For example, it would be easy enough for donations to be split among family members so that instead of the head of the household giving $5,000, as was possible under the former regulations, five family members can give $1,000 each.
"A family can run contributions in from the cousins and the uncles, but you're still not going to get the big hunks of money" that used to be common, Bader said. "I like the changes."
The drawback to the campaign reforms, particularly the ban on fund raising in non-election years, Bader said, is that challenging an incumbent has been made more difficult for anyone who does not hold another political office. Incumbents can always raise money, he said, but challengers need every dollar they can get, and any limitation on their fund raising can be devastating to their chances.
Bader, a former mayor of Pomona, is giving up a safe Republican seat in the Assembly to challenge Ayala, a former Chino mayor and San Bernardino County supervisor who has been in the Senate since 1974.
The Senate district, which stretches from Pomona eastward through Chino and Ontario to San Bernardino, has been undergoing rapid growth, with housing tracts supplanting farms and ranches. Republican registration has climbed from 31% in 1982 to about 40% today, according to Bader's figures, and 39%, according to Ayala's.