Bay Area Senators revive DISCLOSE Act

Two Bay Area state Senators announced Thursday the re-introduction of a bill requiring that the top three funders of political ads be clearly identified, both on the ads themselves and on the campaign’s website.

SB 52, the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, by state Senators Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Jerry Hill, D-Palo Alto, is sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign. It applies to advertising for ballot measure campaigns, independent expenditures and issue advocacy. The bill introduced today is intent language, to which details will be added early next year before it’s heard in policy committees.

“We saw evidence in the most recent election cycle of unnamed organizations throwing around large sums of money in order to confuse California voters,” Leno said in a news release. “The only way to stop this covert financing of campaigns is to require the simple and clear disclosure of the top three funders of political ads so voters can make well-informed decisions at the ballot box.”

Hill said the bill is “vital to protecting the integrity of our democratic process and ensuring fair elections in our state. After seeing billions of dollars flow into elections across our country after the Citizens United decision, we need the DISCLOSE Act now more than ever.”

California Clean Money Campaign president Trent Lange said more than 350 groups and individuals signed on to support the last version of this bill and more than 84,000 Californians signed petitions for it, “demonstrating the rising outcry to stop Big Money special interests from deceiving voters when they fund political ads.”

Actually, this effort has had several iterations recently. AB 1148 last January got 52 Assembly votes, falling short of the two-thirds supermajority it needed to pass. And AB 1648 was passed by the Assembly in August after being amended to require only a simply majority vote, but was stuck in a state Senate committee at the end of the last session. Both of those bills were authored by then-Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, now congresswoman-elect for the 26th House District.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.