A pair of state Senators intend to introduce bills to beef up California’s laws requiring disclosure of political contributions.
State senators Leland Yee, D-San Francsico, and Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said they’re still finalizing the exact language of their two bills, they plan to increase penalties for failing to properly disclose campaign contributions, require greater disclosure of funding sources on mass mailings and media advertisements, and close a loophole that lets some nonprofits finance campaigns without naming their donors.
As an example of that loophole, they cited the $11 million contribution made in October by Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership to oppose Proposition 30 and support Proposition 32 on last month’s ballot. It took a lawsuit filed by the state’s Fair Political Practices Committee to win disclosure of the money’s true donors.
“Laundering money through nonprofits in an attempt to avoid transparency is fundamentally undemocratic,” Yee said in a news release today. “Our democracy should not be bought and sold in shady backroom deals. The California Disclose Act will close this loophole and ensure that Californians are well aware of who is funding campaigns and ballot measures.”
“As alert voters were chagrined to learn, last-minute donations from what essentially were anonymous special interests was a blatant attempt to unfairly shape election results,” said Lieu. “This must stop.”
Good-government groups already are lining up behind the senators’ bills.
“With these proposals, California will continue to lead the country in campaign finance disclosure,” California Common Cause policy advocate Phillip Ung said in Yee’s news release. “These bills show policymakers are listening to voters’ demands and the Legislature will take action to shine a light on the interests behind campaign laundering schemes.”
Jennifer Waggoner, president of the League of Women Voters of California, said voters’ trust in government is eroded when they can’t see behind big donations from special interests. “Effective regulation of money in politics ensures the public’s right to know and promotes confidence in the political process.”