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California Campaign Finance Reform Faces Long Road Ahead

by Alex Gauthier, published
Inside the California Senate // credit: David Monniaux

california campaign finance reform

Since its introduction in December, SB 52 is slowly but surely gaining support throughout the state. State Senators Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) introduced the California DISCLOSE Act in December.

The bill came as a response to nearly $11 million that had been funneled through multiple 501(c)4 nonprofit groups in an attempt to influence California voters regarding propositions 30 and 32.

A central function of the Act would require any political advertisement that airs in California include within it, the top three individuals or corporations funding the ad. Similar in nature to the, 'I'm candidate x and I approved this message' sign-off that is required of official candidate ads. However,  independent expenditures, like election ads, can be sponsored by any number of 501(c)4 'social welfare' organizations without the true source of the advertisement funding being revealed to voters. The bill would,

"require that advertisements disclose the largest funders of all political television, radio, print, and other forms of advertising for ballot measures, independent expenditures, and issue advocacy in a manner that clearly and unambiguously identifies the three largest major donors."

California Senator Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles)  along with Assemblymembers Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles) are jump starting the public awareness campaign in Los Angeles today. The event, scheduled for 3:00 pm will be held at the First Unitarian Church of LAW on 8th St.

The event, which is sponsored by California Clean Money Campaign, will be comprised of a discussion of the bill, as well as question, answer and brainstorming sessions to determine how best to organize local voters.

Additionally, the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which uncovered the shadowy $11 million from Americans For Responsible Leadership following a complaint from Common Cause, has endorsed numerous other bills to reform campaign finance laws in California.

SB 27, sponsored by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), AB 552 and AB 1090 from Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and AB 914, introduced by Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park) all received unanimous votes from the commission.

The endorsements are the first step in the long process of legislative coalition building that will be paramount to ensuring a substantive reaction to dark money in California elections.

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