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Governor signs campaign reform bill

State politicians won’t be able to pay spouses for campaign fundraising activities

Posted: October 13, 2009 10:29 p.m.
Updated: October 14, 2009 7:00 a.m.
 
Spouses and family members of California lawmakers will have to look for employment outside of their loved ones' election bids after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill this week making it a misdemeanor to put spouses or domestic partners on campaign payrolls.

The bill was authored by state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, whose district includes part of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Hiring relatives to work on campaigns has been widely practiced. Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and Senator Barbara Boxer, D-California, are among the federal politicians that employ family members as campaign staffers. The law won't affect federal politicians, however.

California Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, welcomed the reform and added that he has never engaged in hiring family members, but understands why people do.

"My wife has been an unpaid volunteer on all of my campaigns," he said. "I thought hiring her would have been totally inappropriate."

State Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, doesn't employ any relatives on his campaign, said spokeswoman Jana Saastad.

Strickland's bill comes years after he was embroiled in a 2004 political ethics investigation. He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.

In a written statement, Strickland emphasized the importance of ethics in politics.

"This bill is especially personal to me," he said. "Senate Bill 739 is an issue that was raised in one of my prior campaigns. While the activities are not uncommon or illegal, the public has demanded greater transparency in their government, including campaign activities. I believe the best legislators are the ones that listen to their constituents, which is why I introduced Senate Bill 739."

The practice of politicians paying family members to work on campaign is common, Smyth said.

"I know there are family members working on campaigns. I get that," Smyth said. "But the look of impropriety outweighs any benefits."

bcharles@the-signal.com

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