Capitol Alert

Does FEC chair Ann Ravel support California campaign finance measure?

Federal Election Commissioner Ann Ravel shares a laugh with then-chair Ellen Weintraub before Ravel's first meeting at the commission’s Washington office in October 2013.
Federal Election Commissioner Ann Ravel shares a laugh with then-chair Ellen Weintraub before Ravel's first meeting at the commission’s Washington office in October 2013. AP

Before the proponents submitted a campaign finance initiative Wednesday, they provided a news release brimming with laudatory statements about their measure, including one from the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission.

The multifaceted measure aiming for next year’s ballot would, among other things, close “dark money” loopholes for nonprofit donors, modernize the state’s electronic filing system and enshrine in the state constitution the right to disclosure.

In the statement, Ann Ravel, the former head of California’s political ethics watchdog, is the first person quoted. She said the proposed constitutional amendment “goes a long way toward protecting our democracy by recognizing a fundamental right – the right of the public to have responsive and accountable political leaders.

“This is an innovative response to the current problems facing the political system,” Ravel continued.

So, she supports it, right?

Not so fast, said Gary Winuk, who is helping out with the ballot measure and used to work under Ravel at California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.

Winuk acknowledged that while it certainly appeared that Ravel was a supporter, her job on the FEC prevents her from taking an official position on the initiative, in its entirety.

In a brief interview, Ravel said she can’t opine on the state law portion because it may come before the commission. She can, however, speak glowingly about the part amending the California constitution, which the FEC has no say over, she said.

“It would be inappropriate and a possible ethics violation for me to support the initiative part that relates to the state law,” she said.

Still, Ravel stressed that she doesn’t want her neutrality on the whole measure to be confused as support. Or opposition.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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