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California State Assembly in Session. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

California’s Voluntary Candidate Spending Limits

An Assembly candidate is prohibited from making campaign expenditures in excess of $400,000 in the primary, and $700,000 in the general

By Chris Micheli, January 10, 2022 3:10 pm

Initially enacted by the state’s voters in June 1988 by Prop. 73, there are “voluntary expenditure ceilings in the California Government Code, Title 9 (Political Reform), Chapter 5 (Limitations on Contributions), Article 4, containing Sections 85400 – 85403. Article 4 was later repealed and added by Chapter 102 in 2000.

Section 85400 provides that, for a candidate for elective state office who voluntarily accepts expenditure limits, he or she is prohibited from making campaign expenditures in excess of the following:

  • For an Assembly candidate, four hundred thousand dollars ($400,000) in the primary or special primary election and seven hundred thousand dollars ($700,000) in the general or special general election.
  • For a Senate candidate, six hundred thousand dollars ($600,000) in the primary or special primary election and nine hundred thousand dollars ($900,000) in the general or special general election.
  • For a candidate for the State Board of Equalization, one million dollars ($1,000,000) in the primary election and one million five hundred thousand dollars ($1,500,000) in the general election.
  • For a statewide candidate other than a candidate for Governor or the State Board of Equalization, four million dollars ($4,000,000) in the primary election and six million dollars ($6,000,000) in the general election.
  • For a candidate for Governor, six million dollars ($6,000,000) in the primary election and ten million dollars ($10,000,000) in the general election.

Pursuant to Section 85400(c), a campaign expenditure made by a political party on behalf of a candidate is not attributed to the limitations on campaign expenditures set forth in this section.

Section 85401(a) requires each candidate for elective state office to file a statement of acceptance or rejection of the voluntary expenditure limits at the time the candidate files the statement of intention. Pursuant to Section 85401(b), a candidate may, until the deadline for filing nomination papers, change the candidate’s statement of acceptance or rejection of voluntary expenditure limits provided the candidate has not exceeded the voluntary expenditure limits.

Section 85402 specifies that any candidate for elective state office who has filed a statement accepting the voluntary expenditure limits is not bound by those limits if an opposing candidate contributes personal funds to the opposing candidate’s own campaign in excess of the limits set forth above.

Section 85403 provides that any candidate who files a statement of acceptance and makes campaign expenditures in excess of the limits is subject to specified remedies in the Political Reform Act.

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