Taxpayers To Limit Campaign Spending v. Fair Pol. Practices Com., S012016

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation274 Cal.Rptr. 787,799 P.2d 1220,51 Cal.3d 744
Decision Date01 November 1990
Docket NumberNo. S012016,S012016

Scott Hallabrin, Fair Political Practices Com'n, Sacramento, Margaret Ellison, Jeevan Ahuja and Scott Hallabrin, Sacramento, Diane M. Griffiths, Kathryn E. Donovan, for respondent.

Bradley S. Phillips, Epstein, Munger Tolles & Olson, Los Angeles, for petitioner.

Olson, Connelly, Hagel & Fong, Lance H. Olson, George Waters, Sacramento, Ball, Hunt, Hart, Brown & Baerwitz, Allan E. Tebbetts, Judith F. Burkey, Albert W. Gieseman, Jr., Michael R. Overly, Long Beach, Nielsen, Merksamer, Hodgson, Parrinello & Mueller, Sacramento, Vigo G. Nielsen, Louise J. Rosen-Garcia, San Francisco, John E. Mueller, Mill Valley, Charles H. Bell, Jr., Judy S. Davis, Sacramento, Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg & Phillips, Philip R. Recht, Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, Joseph Remcho, Robin B. Johansen, Lowell Finley, Charles C. Marson, Kopp & Di Franco, Quentin L. Kopp, San Francisco, and Ross Johnson, Sacramento, as amici curiae, on behalf of respondent.

EAGLESON, Justice.

The California Constitution provides: "If provisions of 2 or more measures approved at the same election conflict, those of the measure receiving the highest affirmative vote shall prevail." (Const., art. II, § 10, subd. (b). Hereafter, section 10(b).) 1 Rules of statutory construction, however, require an attempt to reconcile statutory provisions relating to the same subject matter whenever possible in order to avoid conflict and give effect to every provision. The threshold question in this case is whether section 10(b) either permits application of these rules of construction to competing initiative measures, or contemplates that only the provisions of the measure receiving the highest affirmative vote shall become effective. The question is one of first impression in the application of section 10(b).

We conclude that, unless a contrary intent is apparent in the ballot measures, when two or more measures are competing initiatives, either because they are expressly offered as "all-or-nothing" alternatives or because each creates a comprehensive regulatory scheme related to the same subject, section 10(b) mandates that only the provisions of the measure receiving the highest number of affirmative votes be enforced. Neither an administrative or regulatory agency, nor the court, may enforce individual provisions of the measure receiving the lower number of affirmative votes. Were the court to do so the result might be a regulatory scheme created without any basis for ascertaining whether the electorate understood or intended the result. In short, section 10(b) does not permit the court to engraft onto one regulatory scheme provisions intended to be part of a different scheme.


The issue arises in the following context.

At the June 7, 1988, primary election the voters approved two initiative statutes, Propositions 68 and 73, both of which regulate political campaign contributions and spending. Both measures amend and supplement the Political Reform Act of 1974 (the Act) (Gov.Code, § 81000 et seq.), 2 which established the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and gives it responsibility for implementing the Act. (§ 83100.) Each proposition adds a different chapter 5, commencing with section 85100, to title 9 of the code. Proposition 73 received more votes than Proposition 68. The complete text of these measures is set forth in an appendix to this opinion.

On November 9, 1988, respondent FPPC issued an opinion responding to the question: "What, if any, of Proposition 68 (the 'Campaign Spending Limits Act') survives the passage of Proposition 73 (the 'Campaign Contributions Limits without Taxpayer Financing Amendments to the Political Reform Act') by a greater number of votes?" The FPPC concluded that because section 10(b) applied only if a conflict existed, each provision of Proposition 68 had to be examined to determine if it conflicted with any provision of Proposition 73. Where conflicts existed the provisions of Proposition 73 would prevail. After comparing the measures provision by provision, the FPPC concluded that most of the provisions of Proposition 68 conflicted with provisions of Proposition 73 or were not severable from other provisions which did conflict. The FPPC identified several provisions of Proposition 68 which, it concluded, did not directly conflict and held that those provisions should become operative.

Petitioner, Taxpayers to Limit Campaign Spending (Taxpayers), an association which sponsored Proposition 68, initiated this mandamus proceeding to compel the FPPC to enforce additional provisions of that proposition, specifically those provisions adding sections 68:85101, subdivisions (a), (c), (d), (e), (g), and (i), 68:85102, subdivisions (a), (b), (f), (g), (h), (i), (j), (k), and (m), 68:85202, 68:85204, 68:85206, 68:85305, 68:85306, 68:85307, 68:85309, 68:85311, 68:85312, 68:85313, subdivisions (a) and (b), 68:85314, and 68:85317, and amending sections 91000 and 91005 of the Government Code. 3

The Court of Appeal, like the FPPC, concluded that it was obligated to attempt to reconcile and give effect to both measures to the extent possible. It held that several additional provisions of Proposition 68 were not irreconcilable with the provisions of Proposition 73, and directed that they be enforced.

We granted review to consider the FPPC's argument that these additional provisions of Proposition 68 were in irreconcilable conflict with provisions of Proposition 73. The parties were advised, however, that the court would also consider whether the FPPC and the Court of Appeal had properly applied section 10(b) in their efforts to give effect to those provisions of Proposition 68 which they concluded did not conflict with the provisions of Proposition 73. 4

A comparison of significant differences between the two propositions in issue here, and the manner in which the Court of Appeal attempted to reconcile them, places the problem in perspective.

The official title of Proposition 73 was: "Campaign Funding. Contribution Limits. Prohibition of Public Funding. Initiative Statute." The Legislative Analyst explained and described the content of the measure 5 as follows:


Federal law limits the amount of money that an individual may give as a political campaign contribution to a candidate for federal elective office or to the candidate's campaign committee. California law generally does not impose any similar limits on political campaign contributions. Both federal law and the state's Political Reform Act of 1974, however, require candidates for public office to report contributions they receive and money they and their campaign committees spend.

California law does not generally permit any public money to be spent for campaign activities. A few local government agencies, however, have authorized the payment of public matching funds to candidates for certain local elected offices.


In summary this measure:

Establishes limits on campaign contributions for all candidates for state and local elective offices;

Prohibits the use of public funds for these campaign expenditures; and

Prohibits state and local elected officials from spending public funds on newsletters and mass mailing.

Limits on Campaign Contributions

The measure establishes separate limits for different types of contributors.

1. Persons. Contributions from any person to a candidate, or to the candidate's campaign committee, are limited to $1,000 per fiscal year. Contributions to a political committee or political party are limited to $2,500 per fiscal year. The measure defines 'person' to include an individual, business firm, association or labor organization.

2. Political Committees. Contributions from any committee to a candidate or the candidate's campaign committee are limited to $2,500 per fiscal year.

3. Political Parties and Broad-Based Political Committees. Contributions from any political party or broad-based political committee to a candidate or the candidate's campaign committee are limited to $5,000 per year. A broad-based political committee is defined as one which receives contributions from more than 100 persons and makes contributions to five or more candidates.

4. Other Provisions.

This measure does not affect any existing limitation on campaign contributions enacted by a local government that imposes lower contribution limits. In addition, any local government may enact its own lower limitations.

The personal contribution limits only apply to financial or other support provided to a political committee or broad-based political committee if the support is used for making contributions directly to a candidate. The contribution limits do not apply if the contributions are used by the committee for other purposes, such as administrative costs.

The time periods over which the contribution limits apply are modified in the case of special elections and special runoff elections.

Public Funding Prohibition

No candidate may accept any public funds for the purpose of seeking elective office.

Newsletters and Mass Mailings

Public funds cannot be used by state and local elected officials to pay for newsletters or mass mailings.

Administration and Enforcement

The State Fair Political Practices Commission has the primary responsibility for administering and enforcing this measure.

As this analysis explained, the contribution and spending limits of Proposition 73 were to apply to all candidates for state and local elective office; none of these candidates would be permitted to accept public funds for use in seeking such office. The public funds restriction was also expressly mentioned in the title given to the initiative by the Attorney General, and in the title given by the initiative to the...

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