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Good news this week for Californians who care about clean fair elections and transparency: SB 52, the California DISCLOSE Act, authored by Mark Leno and Jerry Hill and pushed by the California Clean Money Campaign, passed out of the Elections Committee which is chaired by our own Democratic Senator Lou Correa. Already passed by the Assembly, it will now go to the Appropriations Committee and then have to pass the full Senate, where it will need every single Democratic vote. (What’s going on with Republicans? We’ll look at that below.)
It’s kind of ridiculous that there was even a question whether or not this worthy bill would pass through Lou’s committee, but he had been playing coy as to whether he would support it or not (as had the other “moderate Dem” on the committee, Alex Padilla.) And he doesn’t seem to want to talk to me any more since I helped blow his marijuana/driving bill out of the water.
But like I always said, Lou is responsive to public pressure – generally the times he sides with oppressive corporate interests is when nobody’s paying attention. And after weeks of phone calls and letters from clean election supporters, 120 disclosure warriors from all over the state filled his hearing room Tuesday with enthusiastic calls for support. Since this comes on the heels of two other great election reform bills that he wrote himself - SB 26 and 27 - we can now give Lou the title Titan of Transparency, Duke of Disclosure.
Oh, right – what IS the California DISCLOSE Act, anyway?
You know how, in the months leading up to an election, we’re inundated with political ads on TV, radio, papers, etc., telling us all the reasons we should vote yes or no on some measure or other?
You’re right, generally, as a rule, to take those ads with a grain of salt. I mean, often there’s millions or billions of dollars at stake in these measures, so people will say anything, it’s only natural.
And in such cases, it’s important to know who’s actually doing the saying – is this a group or person or company you personally trust? Do they have a track record of lying through their teeth? How much do they have to gain or lose by saying what they’re saying, and is that likely impacting their truthiness?
Up until now, the forces funding all these ads have been able to hide and channel their funding through entities with cute innocuous names like “Californians for a Better World” or “Citizens for Great Government and Hardly Any Taxes.”
The California DISCLOSE Act will put an end to that charade:
- It’ll require the three largest funders of political ads to be clearly identified for six seconds at the beginning of the ads, so voters know who is actually paying for them.
- It’ll apply to all television ads, radio ads, print ads, mass mailers, online ads, billboards, and websites for or against state and local ballot measures, to third party ads for and against state and local candidates, and to issue advocacy advertisements. It applies whether ads are paid for by corporations, unions, or millionaires.
- It’ll tell voters where to find the details — Requires ads to list a website that prominently lists the ten largest funders and a link to all funders of $10,000 or more (for state races).
- Proposed Follow-the-Money Disclosure will require organizations that spend or transfer politically-available funds to report the actual original corporate, union, or individual contributors — not misleading committee and non-profit names.
- And it’ll require candidates to appear and say they “approve this message”, just like federal candidates.
CHECK OUT what “disclosure” looked like BEFORE this reform, versus what it’ll look like AFTER the Act passes:
What the Hell is wrong with the Republicans?
I mean, seriously. NO Republicans in the legislature are backing the DISCLOSE Act at this point, and of course we hope that changes, but that’s why we need every single Democrat to get the needed 2/3. But … WHY are all Sacramento Republicans against disclosure and transparency? I mean, seriously, how do they explain themselves? When “84% of California voters said they favored legislation to ‘increase the public disclosure requirements of initiative sponsors to more clearly identify who are its major funders’ (October 13, 2011 Field Poll) including 86% of Democrats, 88% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans?”
Of course the REAL reason is that every single Sacramento Republican marches in lockstep to the tune of the California Chamber of Commerce, which is the lobbying arm for all the big corporate interests who don’t WANT you to know they’re funding ads because you probably HATE them – your big oil, tobacco, insurance, banks, and so on.
But Republican politicians can’t just come out and say they oppose honesty and disclosure in politics because the Chamber orders them to – what you’ll hear them say when you ask them why they oppose the DISCLOSE Act is instead basically “hummina-hummina.” Still – what exact verbal form does that “Hummina-hummina” take? We need to know so that we can laugh, ridicule it, and maybe shame a FEW Republicans into doing the right thing and backing transparency over dishonesty.
Well, okay, you probably WILL laugh at this one, but Republicans and the Chamber claim that forcing the funders of ads to reveal who they are is a VIOLATION OF THEIR FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Right. The sacred First Amendment has now become, in their minds, the right to be a secret, hidden ventriloquist.
It gets sillier. Listen for the phrase “chilling effect.” Billionaires and corporations and unions will now, to hear Republicans tell it, be AFRAID to fund ads and make their positions known. WHY? Well… because these positions may be unpopular! They may even lead to one of those dread BOYCOTTS! Oh, cry me a river, and just disclose yourselves, you worms.
Then there’s the old chestnut “What’s the use of passing one more law, they’ll just find another way around it. Now let’s all just get along and trust each other.” The same non-logic that would lead one to ask “Why have ANY laws? Someone will figure out a way to break it or get around it anyway.”
This is all they’ve got? Sure looks that way.
So, do any of you know our other OC Senators, Bob Huff, Mimi Walters, Mark Wyland? If you do, please ask them where they stand on the DISCLOSE Act, and if you hear “Hummina-hummina,” just tell them, “At long last, Senator, have you no … oh, never mind.”