The California DISCLOSE Act of 2013
Why is an organization dedicated to campaign finance reform now campaigning to clean up political advertising? The statewide defeat in 2010 of Proposition 15, a pilot program for full public financing of candidates for Secretary of State, has been attributed in part to an avalanche of extremely deceptive slate mailers. In essence, voters were led to believe that certain influential organizations, such as the Democratic Party, did not support Prop 15, when in fact they did. The California Clean Money Campaign has decided that if we are ever to experience success at the ballot box, this sort of thing needs to be cleaned up first.
With the Supreme Court's devastating Citizens United decision unleashing unlimited, often anonymous spending on federal campaigns and making things even worse, and the federal DISCLOSE (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections) bill stalled in the Senate, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley introduced the California DISCLOSE Act. Based largely on the federal bill, DISCLOSE will require every political ad to reveal who is REALLY paying for it - clearly and unambiguously, in the ad itself. Top funders of political messages will be shown (or heard, in the case of radio) on the ads; additionally, the forces behind slate mailers will be made much more transparent. AB 1148 began its journey through the legislature in January, 2012, when it passed the Assembly Elections Committee. Then, on January 19th it passed the Appropriations Committee too. Unfortunately, it was narrowly defeated on the Assembly floor.
The bill was re-introduced into the Assembly with a new number, and went through that house again as AB 1648. The bill passed two Assembly Committees and, after being amended to pass the Assembly floor vote, was too far behind schedule to be seen in the Senate at all. (See that sad story in "Foiled and fooled again" in the News, menu on the left.)
The California DISCLOSE Act, if successful, will make its way through the legislature again, with yet another new number (SB 52 this time!), with amendments along the way, and then be placed on 2014 statewide ballot (unless it passes with a 2/3 vote in each chamber, in which case it can become law right away). The CA DISCLOSE Act has been endorsed by statewide organizations including CA Common Cause, CA Nurses Association, CA Church IMPACT, CA Green Party, the League of Women Voters of California, Sierra Club California, and many more statewide and local organizations. It is sponsored by California Clean Money Campaign.
Here's what you can do now to help pass the CA DISCLOSE Act:
• Sign the online petition here, and join the coalition of supporters.
• Come to our next organizing meeting, Saturday, June 15th, see what's coming up, and find out which aspect of the campaign is the best fit for you. The three main actions are signature-gathering, phone-banking, and data entry, in diminishing order of the amount of personal contact involved. Something to fit the comfort level of almost anyone! Other valuable endeavors are endorsement-seeking and letter-writing. Recent phone banking efforts have proven fruitful; SB 52 has made it through the Senate (see news item at right).
• Keep checking our calendar for what else we are doing. Our campaign meetings are usually on the third Saturday of each month, from 1 to 3pm at the Potrero Branch Library. I invite you to join us. To get on our local listserv and be notified of local actions, call 415-648-6740 or email [email protected].
Joni Eisen, Coordinator, on behalf of the San Francisco Working Group for Clean and Fair Elections