Campaign Contributions, Ex Parte Communications Underpin Both Criticism and Praise of California's SBOE

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BNA examines the unique and controversial characteristics that make the California State Board of Equalization unlike the adjudicators of tax disputes in all other states and the federal government. Members of the SBOE are elected and may accept campaign contributions, including contributions from taxpayers and their representatives who have tax dispute cases pending before them. At the same time, the members oversee administration of the taxes in dispute. The elected officials also are free to meet with taxpayers and representatives privately to discuss their cases before they are weighed in a public forum. Looking at a sample of 70 complex cases, BNA documents the contributions associated with each case and the outcomes, finding a positive correlation. In Part I, BNA examines rules allowing the contributions, along with factors that are making campaigns for board seats increasingly competitive. It also looks at four cases and discusses how campaign contributions played a role. Part II , to run Sept. 10, will focus on political action committees and alternatives to the current system.

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