Capitol Alert

California poised to adopt campaign rule that would help Democratic senator

In this June 15, 2017 file photo state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, listens as lawmakers debate a measure to change the rules governing recall elections, at the Capitol, in Sacramento, Calif. Records show that an attorney for Senate Democrats spoke behind the scenes with Fair Political Practices Commission member Brian Hatch before the commission voted change a longstanding rule that restricts how much money Newman can raise from fellow lawmakers to fight a recall.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)
In this June 15, 2017 file photo state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, listens as lawmakers debate a measure to change the rules governing recall elections, at the Capitol, in Sacramento, Calif. Records show that an attorney for Senate Democrats spoke behind the scenes with Fair Political Practices Commission member Brian Hatch before the commission voted change a longstanding rule that restricts how much money Newman can raise from fellow lawmakers to fight a recall.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file) AP

With a law extending the election timeline now tied up in court, Senate Democrats’ best hope of a leg up in fighting the recall of Sen. Josh Newman may be California’s political ethics watchdog.

The Fair Political Practices Commission will vote Thursday on whether to reverse a longstanding rule that limits how much money politicians can give to a candidate-controlled recall committee. The board is set to meet at 10 a.m. at its headquarters on Q Street.

Newman, a Fullerton Democrat who eked out a surprise victory in his first election last November, giving his party a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate, was targeted by Republicans eager to retake his seat after he voted in April to raise the gas tax.

Democrats have since gone on the offensive. In June, they passed legislation to add steps to the recall process that would likely place Newman on the ballot in next June’s primary, rather than in a special election where turnout is generally much lower. But a ruling this week put the law on hold while judges determine whether it is legal, after the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and other conservative activists sued.

That leaves the potential FPPC regulation change, which Democrats also requested. In 2002, the commission adopted an interpretation of California campaign finance law that subjects state candidates to contribution limits, currently $4,400, when they donate to a recall committee controlled by another state candidate.

Seeking to give Newman a bigger war chest should proponents qualify their recall effort, Senate Democrats argued they should be able to give unlimited sums. According to a draft opinion that the FPPC could adopt Thursday, a majority of the commission agrees, including two Republicans.

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WORTH REPEATING: “We’re excited that Mayor Garcetti ... is throwing his support and his energy behind a great leader like Joyce Craig.” - New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s trip to the state to endorse a Manchester mayoral candidate

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CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake, who turns 47 on Friday.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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