Conflicts of Interest and Campaign Contributions
Throughout this tutorial, we’ve discussed financial interests that can affect governmental decision-making.
Campaign contributions generally are not covered by conflict of interest laws because of their relationship to First Amendment political speech.
Government Code section 84308
There is one provision in the Political Reform Act that addresses campaign contributions in a conflict-of-interest context, Government Code section 84308.
Learn more about campaign contributions and conflicts of interest from our expert, Jose Lopez.
- “Government Code section 84308 applies to proceedings on licenses, permits, and entitlements for use pending before certain state and local boards and agencies.”
- “Covered officials must disqualify themselves from participating in the proceeding if they have received contributions of more than $250 during the previous 12 months from a financially interested person or party.”
- “Covered officials are prohibited from receiving or soliciting campaign contributions of more than $250 from parties or other financially interested persons during the pendency of the proceeding and for three months after its conclusion.”
- “At the time parties initiate proceedings, they must list all contributions to covered officials within the previous 12 months.”
The law expressly exempts directly elected state and local officials. However, the exemption does not apply when they serve in a capacity other than that for which they were directly elected.
This provision is contained in the Political Reform Act and is subject to the regulations of the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Special Restrictions on Personal Loans
High-ranking state officials are prohibited from receiving personal loans of $250 or more from persons who contract with or are employed by the official’s agency or any agency over which the official has direction and control. There are exemptions for specified commercial loans made to officials in the ordinary course of business on the same terms as other members of the public. (Gov. Code, § 87460.)
An elected officer may not accept personal loans of $500 or more unless the contract is in writing and the officer complies with specified requirements. (Gov. Code, § 87461.)
The Common Law Doctrine Against Conflicts of Interest
Even though most of the conflict of interest laws in California are based on legislative enactment, there also is the common law doctrine against conflicts of interest.
This court-made doctrine provides that a public officer is impliedly bound to exercise his or her powers with disinterested skill, zeal, and diligence and primarily for the benefit of the public.
A personal interest, whether financial or non-financial, that interferes with an official’s ability to act in such a manner could potentially violate the doctrine.
You have completed the "Other Laws" module. The next module is Conflicts of Interest When Leaving Office.
The California Attorney General's Office and the Fair Political Practices Commission