First-in-nation campaign disclosure legislation, California DISCLOSE Act, on way to Gov. Brown’s desk

YubaNet.com

September 18, 2017

SACRAMENTO, CA, Sept. 18, 2017 — With an overwhelming bipartisan vote in the State Assembly, California’s legislature sent the nation’s most comprehensive election disclosure law to Governor Brown’s desk. Assembly Bill 249, authored by Assemblymembers Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) and Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, requires ballot measure ads and independent expenditure ads for and against candidates to clearly and prominently disclose the identity of their top three funders, with first-in-the-nation follow-the-money rules to make ballot measure ads show their true funders.

“After seven years and dozens of authors and co-authors, the DISCLOSE Act has finally passed the legislature and is moving onto Governor Brown,” said AB 249’s author, Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin.  “Transparency in elections is critical to our democracy and AB 249 brings that transparency to California, giving our voters the opportunity to make informed decisions based on honest information.”

The Assembly vote was 59-15, with every Democrat voting Yes, joined by Republican Assemblymembers Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita), Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego), and Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga).

Principal co-authors Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Los Altos), Matthew Dababneh (D-Van Nuys), and Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), along with coauthors Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Davis), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Kansen Chu (D-Milpitas), Laura Friedman (D-Burbank), Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), Tim Grayson (D-Concord), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), and Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Buena Park) played important roles in AB 249’s Assembly passage.

The groundswell of support for AB 249 is demonstrated by more 100,000 Californians who signed petitions for AB 249 — including petitions hosted and shared on CREDO Mobilize, MoveOn.org Petitions, Causes.com, and the website of the California Clean Money Campaign.  More than 23,000 people emailed their legisaltors and thousands called their offices during the two weeks prior to the vote.

“The DISCLOSE Act is a landmark transparency measure that will stop special interests from concealing their true identity in political advertisements.  Voters have a right to know who’s behind the candidates and measures on the ballot, but unfortunately these entities often hide behind misleading names in campaign ads,” said Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica), a principal coauthor of AB 249.  “I urge the Governor to sign the DISCLOSE Act into law so that these advertisements will finally reveal the true identity of campaign funders.”

The Senate floor vote on Monday was an equally overwhelming 29-9, with every Democrat voting Yes, joined by Republican Senators Anthony Canella (R-Ceres) and Scott Wilk (R-Lancaster).  Crucial to its success were principal co-authors Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), and Henry Stern (D-Calabasas), along with coauthors Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), Connie Leyva (D-San Bernardino), Josh Newman (D-Brea), Anthony Portantino (D-Glendale), and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

AB 249 is also strongly endorsed by the principal co-author of the Political Reform Act of 1974, Bob Stern who said, “I strongly endorse AB 249.  It represents a major advancement in disclosure on ads for both ballot measures and independent expenditures for and against candidates, making them much more readable and accurate, increasing the funders that must be disclosed from two to three on TV and print ads, and requiring top funder disclosures on general purpose committee ads for the first time.”

Under AB 249, all ballot measure committees and PACs supporting or opposing candidates will be required to display the names of their top 3 funders on a solid black background on the bottom third of the screen for a full 5 seconds in television and video ads.  Each name must be displayed on a separate line in a large clear font without using difficult to read full capitalization.  Similar disclosure rules will exist for radio, print and online ads, and robocalls.

For ballot initiative ads, the California DISCLOSE Act also creates new rules for earmarking and tracking of contributions through primarily formed committees to identify true funders when they try to hide behind shell groups with misleading names.

“With this landmark, first in the nation bill, we’ve never been closer, anywhere in the country, to shining a light on Dark Money by making it illegal for voters to be misled about who is truly paying for ballot measure ads,” said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign, sponsor of AB 249.  “Every Californian who cares about the integrity and honesty of our electoral process owes AB 249 authors Assembly Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin and Assemblymember Marc Levine a huge ‘thank you’, along with Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Senators Ben Allen, Jerry Hill, and Henry Stern, without whose leadership this victory wouldn’t have been possible.”

AB 249 is now headed to Governor Brown’s desk.

“If the Governor signs AB 249, the sun will finally shine on dark money in California politics.”, said Senator Henry Stern, chair of the Senate Elections Committee.  “In this murky Citizens United era, where nothing is what it seems, the people need all the help they can get to suss out special interests at work in our elections.”  

The California Clean Money Campaign is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that has been dedicated to educating the public about the need to lessen the unfair influence of Big Money on election campaigns since 2001. For further information, visit www.CAclean.org.