Opponents of Debit Card Reforms Gave Twice as Much Money to CA State Senators Voting No

Emily Calhoun | June 07, 2010

The CA Senate passed a bill 22-9 last week to restrict fees on debit card transactions. Four Democrats joined five Republicans in opposition to the measure. Over the last four years, industry groups opposed to the bil gave on average $14,504 to opposing Senators, more than twice as much as the $4,306 average given to the three Republicans and 19 Democrats who voted in favor of the measure.

Sponsored by the Consumer's Union, SB 933 affords consumers the option to make purchases with a debit card without incurring additional transaction fees, a provision already in effect for purchases made by credit card. Supporters of the bill argue that consumers are unfairly disadvantaged because "a consumer who elects to pay with their debit card can actually pay more than somebody who uses their credit card."

The opposition, led by the California Retailers Association, argues that retailers incur costs for debit card transactions, and while most retailers do not pass these costs on to consumers, "[t]hose that impose a charge are smaller merchants or retailers who are recognized for offering low price products or services." The organizations opposing the measure include oil giant BP and trade associations, such as the Independent Oil Marketers Association, California Grocers and Convenience Store Associations and the California Restaurant Association.

The opposition gave on average 236% more campaign money to each Senator voting in favor of their interests.

SB 933 Senate Floor VoteAverage
All Senators voting no (9)$14,504
Democrats voting no (4)$15,557
Republicans voting no (5) $13,663
All Senators voting yes (22)$4,306
Democrats voting yes (19) $4,097
Republicans voting yes (3) $5,633
All Senators not voting (7) $6,693
Democrats not voting (2) $2,750
Republicans not voting (5) $8,270

Methodology: Campaign contributions data provided by the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP). Date range of campaign contributions to current Senators is the last four years for which we have data (March 18, 2006 - March 17, 2010) standardized by NIMSP as of April 29, 2010. Votes on SB 933 are recorded in the Office of Legislative Counsel's LegInfo database.